In the search for extra cash, many students are mining their veins. Plasma donation centers, such as Plasma Biological Services, Inc. in Jackson, Tenn., offer $20 for each deposit. An enterprising student can easily donate their way to $250 a month by swapping plasma for money.
"A lot of students are [plasma] donation addicts because they
calculate how much you can make in a month," said senior Patrick Myers,
This week Clark was joined by sophomore Anna Buchanan, learning foundations major.
"The worst part is when they prick your finger," Buchanan said, before
disappearing into one of three small booths for her pre-donation tests.
Clark said he sees another Union University student almost every time
he goes to PBSI. Freshman John Oswalt, athletic training major, has been
donating every Tuesday and Thursday since late September when he
received a flyer from Plasma Biological Services, Inc.
"Every now and then they play a bad movie," Oswalt joked, "but you get to meet the most random people."
All three students said the money is their motivation for donating plasma. Oswalt said he uses the money from his plasma donations to supplement his work-study job on campus.
What Is Plasma, Really?
The average adult has about 12 pints of whole blood, 57 percent of which is clear, protein-rich plasma.
Plasma contains clotting factors, which help treat hemophilia and
other diseases, but many donations are needed to supply the growing
"It takes so much plasma to make so little amount of
clotting factor," said Plasma Biological Services, Inc. center manager
How is it Extracted?
During the extraction process, plasmapheresis, a
spinning device separates plasma from the other whole blood components
(i.e. red and white blood cells and platelets) which are then returned
to the body.
Plasma Biological Services, Inc. regional manager Shane Bone said the body will replenish the plasma in about 36 hours.
Components in plasma are also used in hospitals and emergency rooms to treat shock, burns and other traumatic injuries.
Plasma aids the circulation of red and white blood cells and
contributes to natural chemical communication between different parts of
Is There Danger of Infection?
"All the equipment is 100 percent sterile," said
Bone. The materials that come in contact with the blood are replaced for
each donation to prevent contraction of diseases like HIV and Hepatitis B.
Bone said he has seen donors who gave for 20 or more years without any long-term health problems.
However, Bone and Nickel both warned against the possibility of low protein-levels and dehydration.
"Plasma is protein-rich and mostly water, so donating can deplete the body's protein," Nickell said.
"The saline we replace it with doesn't have protein, so we check iron
levels and protein levels before each donation. If people are not
between a certain level, they can't give."
Bone said it is important for donors to eat a good diet and drink plenty of water.
What Can First-Time Donors Expect?
The prospective donor can expect to spend two hours in the center
their first time. This allows for the physical examination, which is
repeated annually, and the donation process. Subsequent visits may only
take up to an hour and a half.
University students Micah Moyers,
digital media studies major, and Wayne Campbell, computer science
major, were regular plasma donors last semester.
"We would race
to see who could give the fastest." Moyers said. "We got into the upper
40-minute range, which is pretty good. We would pump like crazy, and
some of the nurses would cheer for us."
Moyers and Campbell often used Plasma Biological Services, Inc. to fund their DVD collection.
"Whenever a new movie came out and we didn't have any money, we would
go give plasma so we could buy DVDs," Moyers said. "It was completely
for the money."
Even with the money, the plasma donation process does not appeal to everyone.
Campbell convinced Myers to donate twice last year "on a dare," despite Myers' self-confessed extreme fear of needles.
"The experience itself was character building," Myers said, "which you
use to describe anything you don't ever want to do again, but are glad
"The main thing is to help other people. I think it's a
great thing, especially if you get money. I would definitely do it more
often except for the whole passing out thing."
For Moyers, the stopping point came when his grueling donation schedule began to take its toll on his veins.
"I donated for a year straight, and then it started to hurt. When I
would go to donate, my veins would start quivering. I figured that
Moyers took a break before returning to Plasma Biological Services, Inc.
"I started out fine, but then it started to hurt again, really hurt. I
would be pumping fine and then it would slow down and finally stop.
They pulled the needle out and stuck it back in. That wasn't fun-being
stuck eight times for the same plasma donation."
If you are interested in donating plasma, it is a great idea. There are
very minimal health risks involved with donating plasma and it is very
helpful to the recipient of the plasma on the other end. If you are a
college student it is especially helpful to you because you get
compensated for donating plasma and it is a very short and simple
What Happens During Plasma Donation?
Plasma donation involves a health screening to make sure
you are in good health. Then, the technician will draw blood from your
arm, a machine will remove the plasma from the blood, and the blood with
the plasma removed will be injected back into your arm.
The plasma that
is taken from your blood stream will be tested not once, but twice for
any disease, virus, or possible infection in the blood before it is ever
passed on to someone who needs it. The entire process is very safe and
helpful to those who would not be making it through their illnesses
without your blood plasma.
The whole process of plasma donation
takes less than about 20 minutes and is relatively pain free if you can
stand the pain of the shots that you get at a doctors appointment for a
routine checkup. It is recommended that you are well slept and well fed
before you go to get any blood drawn for plasma donation.
If you are
under slept or under fed you may be more inclined to get dizzy or even
pass out because of the blood that is being drawn. This is about the
only health risk involved in getting your blood drawn for plasma
Besides being helpful to those who need your plasma, you can
also be compensated for your plasma and your time every time you donate
plasma. Most clinics compensate between $15 and $20 for each plasma
donation. You can donate plasma more than once and up to twelve times per year.