We've all heard the stories of college kids selling plasma to make ends meet; well people, that's my story. Unfortunately, my part time job wasn't cutting it when it came to rent, tuition, groceries, and gas; oh the fun life of an adult! Anyway, I thought I'd at least check out the plasma center and see if it was worth it. My first impression was that the place was a little run down. The building it was located in was a little old with a crumbling parking lot. However, once inside everyone was super professional, certified, and hard working.
The place I went to was pretty generous to its donors, and the amount of money you made was based on your weight. The more you weighed, the more plasma they could take, and the more money you walked out with. The way you got paid was with a prepaid debit card that they would load money onto after each visit, but I'm getting ahead of myself. You're probably wondering how the process itself works.
After walking in the front door, you would stand in line to fill out a questionnaire about your current health. Once completed, the nurses at the counter would prick your finger to test your blood for the proper amount of protein, sugar, nutrients, etc. If you passed the tests, you then would enter the "donor floor" where the nurses would begin the process. It normally only took me around 45 minutes to complete the procedure; however, this was highly dependent on how hydrated I was and if there were a lot of people donating that day.
After prepping the plasma machine, the nurse would stick you with a pretty thick needle and then I'd watch transfixed as the blood would run up the tube and begin to fill the centrifuge canister. Once the canister would fill to a certain point, it would start separating the plasma from the blood. It would then return your blood to you through the same needle and repeat the process.
I'm not going to lie, it's slightly painful, and if they don't insert the needle correctly, you can feel tube sucking at your blood. Yeah, it's about as pleasant as it sounds; however, I was able to earn $80 going twice a week. That's not bad for reclining in a comfy chair watching Netflix for an hour or so.
Now there are, unfortunately, some consequences you need to be aware of. First off, this process depletes your blood protein levels, and in my case, they dropped a significant number. There were a few occasions where I was temporarily "suspended" for two weeks because my protein had dropped too low. This may not happen to everyone; in my case, I love to workout and had built up a significant amount of muscle. Well muscle needs protein, and protein is one of the key parts of plasma. Needless to say, with my muscle trying to replenish itself along with donating twice a week... it didn't take long for my workouts to begin to suffer and my protein levels to drop below the healthy mark. Even with my protein rich diet, I could tell my body was malnourished. The nice thing it, your body is resilient, and with the right nutrition and time to recuperate, your body can bounce back. So that's what I did, every so often I wold take a few weeks off to let my protein levels rise back up to normal.
The other consequence that effects almost everyone I've talked to is fatigue. After the procedure, I would feel a little light headed and even the smallest amount of exercise would leave me exhausted. So that's something to take into consideration when considering when you're going to donate. One more thing I hate about donating plasma: it leaves a scar. I did it for about nine months, which is plenty of time for scar tissue to build up and leave a nice little mark. I've had to inform people that no, I'm not doing drugs, I'm donating plasma to help people in need!
So that's my plasma experience; I personally think it's worth it, but everyone is entitled to their own opinion. It hurts, there are consequences, and yes, I often dread going. However, walking out after it's done and knowing that not only will my plasma go to help people, but that I can afford groceries is a good feeling. And that, my friends, is what keeps me going back.