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Townsville and Plasma

Townsville at the forefront of plasma

It’s an exciting time to be a plasma donor in Townsville.  To make it easier for Australian’s to donate plasma more often; we’ll be opening the first dedicated plasma focused donor centre in the southern hemisphere, and we’ve hand-picked Townsville to be that centre – and for good reason too.  With the highest number of voluntary plasma donors per capita, Townsville is the perfect location for this pilot.

The newly refurbished Townsville donor centre will include some exciting new initiatives. We’ll be introducing new technologies, processes, improved entertainment services and enhancements to the centre design to help provide a streamlined, relaxed and enjoyable donation experience. 

What is plasma?

Did you know that not all components of your blood are red? In fact, about 55% of your blood is actually straw-like in colour. How is that so? Well, it’s the red blood cells that give your blood its distinctive colour, but red blood cells are only one piece of the puzzle. Blood is in fact made up of four different components – red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and plasma. 

Plasma is the liquid component that forms the majority of our blood. It’s what your red blood cells float in, and it’s loaded with thousands of proteins and nutrients that are vital to the way our bodies function. 

Why are plasma donations needed?

When donated, plasma can be used to create as many as 18 different life-saving medical treatments. These treatments help people suffering from cancer and leukaemia, blood disorders, brain and nerve diseases, immune deficiencies and many more illnesses and health conditions. 

Australia’s demand for plasma is at an all-time high, while demand for red cells is falling. In fact, demand for plasma is currently higher than our supply for Australian patients.  Therefore, we are looking at ways to increase the supply of plasma from Australian donors to ensure that patients across the country continue to receive the treatments they need.

With such a broad range of uses, and an unprecedented demand, it’s no wonder plasma has quickly become the most sought after component of our blood. 

How a plasma donation works

If you have not donated before or only ever donated blood, you may have questions about donating plasma for the first time. This information should answer some of those and help prepare you for a comfortable and rewarding donation experience.

So how do you donate just one component of your blood? We use a process called apheresis, which is similar to a blood donation.  An apheresis machine spins the blood very fast in a small centrifuge to separate out the plasma. It keeps the plasma and returns your red blood cells, white cells and platelets back to you. Along with your other blood components, you’ll also receive some saline (salt solution) to help replace the fluid you’ve donated, to ensure hydration.

The tubing and plastic bags within the machine are used only once and then disposed of, making the process very safe and hygienic.

How long does it take? 

Donating plasma does take a little longer than donating blood. To ensure your eligibility, we ask a few more questions prior to donation. The average donation then takes 35 to 45 minutes to complete. This means you’ll get some extra time to relax, read a book, or take advantage of our free high-speed WiFi, all while saving lives!

For your first plasma donation appointment, we recommend you allow about one and a half hours. This includes the time needed for the questionnaire and interview, donation process and relaxing with a snack afterwards. Following that, you should only need about an hour for each appointment.

How much plasma will I give?

The volume of plasma we collect depends upon your height and weight, but the maximum is 800ml. This is more than the amount of plasma in two blood donations, which means much more plasma for patients. 

What does it feel like?

For the most part, giving plasma feels similar to giving blood. Occasionally when receiving the saline, some donors report a slightly cold sensation. If this happens, our staff will be on hand with a blanket or heat pack to keep you warm and comfortable. 

A trained nurse will supervise throughout your donation. If you feel uncomfortable or unwell at any time, let them know straight away and they’ll look after you. 

A small amount of anti-coagulant is mixed with each withdrawal of blood to prevent clotting in the tubing and sometimes a small amount may be returned to the donor.  This may cause a metallic taste or slight tingling sensation around the lips and nose but is not cause for concern.  Staff will provide Quickeze to donors prior to donation to reduce the likelihood of this reaction.

Generally, most first-time plasma donors feel absolutely fine. It’s a real buzz knowing that your plasma will soon be made into life-saving treatments.

How often can I donate plasma?

Plasma can be donated as often as every two weeks, giving you more opportunities to help Australians whose quality of life depends on plasma donations. 

Many plasma donors prefer to have a regular routine, but how often you donate is entirely up to you. 

In order to meet the ever-growing demand for plasma as best as we can, we encourage Townsville plasma donors to donate as often as six times per year – that’s every two months. 

How do I become a plasma donor?

Most people are able to give plasma if they:

  • feel fit and healthy
  • are aged between 30 and 70
  • weigh over 50kg
  • meet the eligibility requirements covered in the Donor Questionnaire

You may be temporarily unable to donate plasma if you:

  • are on certain medications or antibiotics, have a cold or are feeling unwell in any way
  • have certain medical conditions
  • have recently changed medications
  • have recently had surgery
  • have recently had a piercing
  • have had a tattoo in the past 4 months.

You will not be able to donate plasma if you:

  • have visited or lived in the UK for a cumulative total of 6 months or more between 1980 and 1996
  • have engaged in male to male sexual activity or other specified at-risk sexual activity in the past 12 months
  • have recently been pregnant or given birth
  • have ever had a serious heart condition
  • have ever had a serious blood disorder or disease
  • have ever injected or been injected with drugs not prescribed by a doctor or dentist. 

Your ability to donate plasma depends on the suitability of your veins and your haemoglobin level (both of which will be assessed in our donor centre).  We encourage you to drink three good-sized glasses of water or juice and have a substantial meal in the three hours prior to visiting the donor centre.

Will I ever be asked to donate whole blood?  

As a result of the new Townsville Donor Centre focusing on collecting plasma, you won’t be asked to donate anything but plasma. Being part of this initiative in boosting plasma donations to help meet Australian demand makes you a pretty special donor! 

How do I prepare for a plasma donation?

Preparing for your plasma donation is easy! Please make sure that you:

  • drink plenty of fluids the day before you donate, especially in warm weather

  • have regular meals in the 12 hours beforehand and eat a substantial, preferably salty, meal or snack in the 3 hours before

  • drink 3 good-sized glasses of water or juice in the three hours before your appointment, and

  • bring your ID with you.

Who you're helping

Sienna, pictured above (left), needed several blood transfusions during open heart surgery.  Thanks to donors, she now gets to play with her little brother Mason. 

Plasma is amazingly versatile. It’s constantly in demand to treat a growing number of life-threatening conditions and for many vital medical treatments. Some of its uses include: 

  • treating serious autoimmune and blood disorders. 

  • treating severe burns

  • treating complications during heart surgery

  • protecting against potentially fatal Rhesus Disease in newborn babies

  • fighting infection during bone marrow transplants, and

  • creating immunisations, such as for measles, chicken pox and tetanus.

Have any questions?

If you would like to learn more about plasma donation and what it means for you, please call us on 13 14 95

We look forward to welcoming you at the refurbished Townsville donor centre.