News & Events

The plasma donors... and the cleaner

Friday April 24 2020

The only nervous person in the room was the young guy who was lying across the room from me. It was his first-time giving plasma. He’d just been laid off from his job and wanted to be useful.

For privacy reasons, we have not identified this person in our photos. 

Photo shows smiling man donating plasma.

Palmerston North architect Shane Lewer.

Giving plasma is very useful but can be unnerving at times.

“The machine’s gurgling. Is it alright?” he called out. His phlebotomist went over to check his tubes and reassure him.

“The blood seems to be flowing the wrong way! Is it supposed to be going backwards?” Again, he was reassured by his minder.

“We’re really busy. Heaps of people want to help out so we’re getting lots of new people coming in as well as people we haven’t seen for a while. There are a lot of people with time on their hands. This could be their only social contact for a while.”

Photo shows man lying back on a bed in the donor centre, donating plasma.

Intermediate Normal teacher Johnathan Clemens.

It’s pretty tiring, but the real heroes are the cleaning staff. They’re doing an amazing job.

Photo shows man wearing mask and gloves with cleaning cloth and solution in spray bottle.

Smithesh Thomas of Crest Clean.

In a place that is full of people lying down, the constant motion of the cleaner in the other room is hard to ignore. Smithesh Thomas is cleaning down surface after surface after surface. Tables, doors – especially their handles. He wipes benchtops. The seats in the waiting room. The large padded donor chairs that the public lie on while they get their vital fluids drained. The whole time I’m there – about an hour – he doesn’t stop.

The Palmerston North donor rooms now have a cleaner working every hour that they’re open. Smithesh does four shifts of four hours a week. In between, he’s cleaning at other places that need to keep germs to a minimum.

“Things may quieten down for us in a few weeks if it gets worse and people stop coming in,” says Kim as she processes another bag of plasma.

As of the time of publishing, plasma donations are fully booked in Palmerston North until 7 May.

The New Zealand Blood Service has processes in place to comply with government guidelines and keep donors and staff safe. Visit NZBlood to find out more, including whether you’re eligible to donate, and to book an appointment.

Words and photos by PalmyProud contributor Anthony Behrens. He followed the Ministry of Health's recommendations on social distancing when conducting this interview and was 2m+ away from the interviewees.