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where there's smoke: A building under construction next to the Logan Police Station caught fire from a welder's spark. Damage was estimated at $50,000. / Photo by Gideon Oakes

Today's word on journalism

August 27, 2008

On protests at political conventions:

"The citizens of Denver and St. Paul, and Americans everywhere, should hope officials in those cities already have considered both the constitutional and monetary costs of silencing voices that have a right to be heard. . . . Well-expressed or wacky. Irritating or illuminating. Respectful or raucous. There's nothing in the 45 words of the First Amendment that sets out any such qualifications or limits on protests. Time and again in our history, from women's suffrage to civil rights to tax protests, to name just some, voices first raised in the streets -- to the disgust or disappointment of some -- have led to significant, positive changes in law and American life."

--Gene Policinski, executive director, First Amendment Center, 2008

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USU students join trend of plasma donations for quick cash

By Alison Baugh

May 12, 2008 | What will college students do for money? Just about anything -- including being stuck with needles.

"It's free money for sticking a needle in my arm," said Aaron Chadwick, Utah State University student.

Chadwick is just one of the millions of people across the nation who donates plasma for money. College students make up the majority of those who donate, according to Chadwick. This may be because they need the most money. He has been doing it for four years and says he plans to keep donating as long as he needs money. Chadwick started out getting $15 and $25 alternately when he first began donating in 2004. Now he is paid $30 each time he donates at Plasma Control Collection Center in Logan.

This trend of college students donating their plasma for extra cash to help ends meet is happening all over the nation. The Utah Statesman at Utah State University first reported on this trend in January 2003. The Iowa State Daily reported on plasma donation in August of 2002, as did Purdue University's newspaper, The Exponent, in November 2006.

Donating is a first job for some, but for most others it is an extra job, Chadwick said. He is one of those and while he started out doing it regularly, he does it now when his job doesn't make ends meet. One of Chadwickís friend said one of her other guy friends called her a "prostitute" for selling part of her body, but said she will continue to donate because she needs the money.

"A lot of people do it because it's extra money and it's paid in cash," Chadwick said.

The plasma is made of everything in the blood but the red blood cells, Dawson said. This includes platelets, antibodies, electrolytes, potassium, sugar and fluids. The plasma can be ordered as a whole unit frozen, but usually it is separated into just platelets or antibodies, Dawson said.

Plasma donation centers are vital for hospitals because most people arenít willing to take the time to simple donate plasma as it takes a lot longer than donating blood, said Brian Dawson, Family Practitioner. The increase in the trend to donate is good because more uses are being found for plasma, Dawson said. One blood donation transfers to one blood infusion, but plasma is different. It takes hundreds of plasma donations to make a plasma treatment, Dawson said. It's a needed service, Dawson said.

"It's money that (the students) need and it's used-we've found more uses so its needed more," Dawson said.

Lately plasma has been used in many cancer treatments, Dawson said. When they match the plasma donations there are over 10 factors looked at and over 29 types of platelets in the plasma, Dawson said. He cited a case of a woman who had leukemia, who would reject plasma from everyone, except from one woman in southern California. When the woman needed treatments, the doctors would call the donor in California and ask her to donate, Dawson said. This is why having a variety of people donating and a larger number to get the right match are important.

The American Red Cross Web site reports having contracts with plasma donation companies such as Baxter BioScience and ZLB Bioplasma, AG. The Food and Drug Administration sets certain regulations for the companies in order to ensure the plasma they receive is healthy and usable. The American Red Cross also sets guidelines for the companies they buy plasma from.

Safety has never been a concern for Chadwick. He hasn't worried about getting infected or giving bad plasma because of the mini physicals the donor has each donation. He said he isn't sure exactly how they keep his plasma safe after they take it from him, but he trusts the company. As in any situation there are risks of receiving plasma infusions, but the companies and hospitals know what to look for so it keeps it safer, Dawson said.

There are not really any long-term risks, Dawson said, even if someone has been donating for years. The body begins to rebuild its plasma store immediately after donation. There may be some short-term side effects such as a weakened immune system, but overall the risks are low. Chadwick said he will usually just go once a week in the winter, instead of the twice-a-week limit he does in the summer to keep his immune system healthy.

It takes Chadwick about an hour and a half to donate in the summer and at least two during the school year because he has to wait in a longer line, he said. When entering the donation center, Chadwick signs in and goes into a waiting room with about 30 chairs and a movie playing to entertain donors as they wait. After being called back into a booth, a prick of the finger tests the level of things such as iron and protein in the blood and a weight check. They also use a black light to make sure donors haven't gone anywhere else, exceeding the limit of twice a week donating. Then itís back to the waiting room. Chadwick said the next time he's called back his blood pressure, temperature and heart rate are taken. Then a worker asks a series of questions to make sure the donor hasn't done anything that will ruin the plasma donation such as drug injections in the arm, traveling to Europe or participating in any activities in which AIDS could be acquired.

"You answer no to all but two if you want to pass," Chadwick said.

The donor is then moved into the back to wait for a bed. When a bed is open, the donor sits, the vein is found, the area treated with iodine and the needle is inserted. Blood and plasma are taken at the same time. The blood and plasma are then separated in a centrifuge and the blood is returned to the arm, while plasma goes into a small bottle. It can take anywhere from three to eight cycles to complete a donation. Girls are usually faster, Chadwick said due to the amount they can donate which is proportional to their weight and the amount of plasma that comes out in proportion to the blood. After the donation is complete, the needle removed and the arm bandaged, the job is over.

"You get a sticker which you take to the front desk. They give you 30 bucks, three 10s and then you walk out," Chadwick said.

As with donating blood, it is important to help the body rebuild its plasma supply, according to Associated Content. They suggest those who donate increase their water intake and healthy eating not only after, but also before donating. Not drinking alcohol after or the night before donating is another suggestion. The writer also warns that those who donate may receive harsh comments from people they come in contact with due to "their job." Chadwick said he does try to eat more, especially protein, when he knows he will be donating the next day. As for drinking more water, Chadwick said he makes sure to drink lots, before and after.

While it may take more planning and thought to be healthy enough to donate and not have side effects, it is something people are willing do. Donate Blood reports over 20 million units are donated each year in the United States. As prices continue to rise and doctors find more uses for plasma, it is probable that the trend of increase of number of people donating will continue.

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