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,
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
"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,"
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