I gave blood yesterday, and it was my first time donating via apheresis instead of just giving whole blood. It was pretty fascinating..
WARNING: Don't click any of the links in this post if you're not into the sight of blood or medical equipment. They're photos of blood donation.
Apheresis is the process of drawing out blood, separating out the parts they want to keep (in this case red cells and platelets,) and returning the rest of it back to the donor along with some saline solution.
They tapped a vein with a line that, instead of leading to a normal blood bag, led to a machine that looked like nothing more than the bastard child of a Mr. Coffee and an ATM. The machine then drew blood as normal for a while.
Then, the interesting bit.. it gave me this clear stuff back, reportedly my plasma and white cells, with a dash of saline added. It was a strange feeling, and I'm pretty sure I had the taste of plastic in the back of my mouth.
It cycled like this, drawing and replacing, about four times. Apparently, this allowed me to basically donate double the good stuff I normally would have. It was a really interesting experience, and the blood bank people say it's the wave of the future.
I took one last pic of the gadget when all was finished, because I am a nerd.
I, for one, welcome our new robot vampire overlords.