As I squeezed my eyes tight as the thick, hollow needle entered my arm I shuddered in pain. The attendant asked if I was okay and I sent him a stiff nod and a smile putting the fear of needles far into the back of my mind. Even in my third donation, I was as squeamish as the first, despite being prepared for the step by step process of Donating Plasma. I was not, however, prepared for my third session to have harsh effects on my physical health and prevent me from wanting to return.

Initial thoughts

My first time at the plasma center was easy going. I knew I had to plan for a three-hour visit because of all the paperwork and physicals I'd need to complete before I could donate and I had an entire day off so it was enough for me.

My friend had suggested I donate because it's as life-saving as blood and the people at the center pay you for your time. As a broke college student, I was hooked.

For the first hour, I sat in a rock hard chair in the waiting room watching the movie, "Drumline" on the TV. My name was called several times to double check my ID, my veins, and my social security card. I had brought a book with me but I was too anxious to Read so I sat on Facebook and watched TV to keep my mind at ease.

About half an hour after that, I was called back for a physical examination where my reflexes, heart rate, and breathing were checked thoroughly by a nurse who asked consent for each change of position. I was sent to do a urine test and after five minutes of awkward toilet adjustments, I was called out to answer some questions while we waited for my bladder to relax.

When I was finally able to pee for the doctors it was smooth sailing into another waiting chair and then ultimately the comfy black recliners of the donation room. I was laid back and explained the process of what would happen to me and the next hour was just like a blood donation just with a different liquid. I watched my vial fill with the strange yellow-brown substance and I kept my eyes away from the needle poking out of my arm.

The last ten minutes I shivered from being cold as the dark blood that left me returned to my body as pink as my bracelet and I was sent home with a donor card moments later. I left with a smile on my face and a tight bandage on my arm and I was excited to go back.

Setbacks

I hardly remember my second time donating. I was in and out in an hour and the attendants were even nicer than the first time around. My third time will be forever etched into my brain.

It all went as normal at first, finger jabs for iron testing and blood pressure cuffs. I wasn't seated for long at all in the waiting area and I was donating before I knew it.

I turned on my Netflix on my phone to pass the time and for the first episode of my show, things seemed okay. I felt some pain in my arm but I put it aside, assuming it was just needle pain.

Then I was dizzy and nauseous and I was having a hard time focusing. I reached my arm out to the first attendant I could find and asked for help and the world went black as she came to my side asking me what was wrong. Four attendants were by my side almost as soon as I came to seconds later and I relayed my symptoms that had gotten worse almost immediately.

My whole body felt as if it were asleep but it was clenching every muscle at the same time. My hands were shut so tight the doctor had to pry each finger open and massage my hands to get circulation back and I was hyperventilating so bad I was shaking with fear.

The whole ordeal didn't last more than half an hour and my vitals were showing signs of health once I was escorted to an exam room. My final symptom was tremors in my hands but other than that I was feeling much better as I left compared to just a few minutes prior. The doctor explained I might have had a reaction to their coagulant and an anxiety attack further amplified my symptoms and that I should be okay in a couple hours.

Overall vibe

Plasma saves lives, there's no questioning that. Needles suck and hurt and being a first timer takes more hours that one cares to enjoy but it's a small sacrifice to help another person. While I am on the fence about returning after what happened to me I would still encourage healthy people to donate if they have the time.

Unlike me, make sure to eat protein and hydrate before your session to decrease any negative effects and remember to relax. Everyone has a different experience, and while mine was scary, to say the least, others I know who donate never have a bad time and love to go back.