Kyle Lucas, a sophomore engineering major, was broke. Lucas had a monthly rent approaching, a car thirsting for gas and a stomach aching for Cafe Mexicali. So he decided to do what any sensible student would do: sell his body.
Plasma â€œdonationâ€ has become a rather popular and inventive method to put a few bucks back in college studentsâ€™ wallets. Few realize the value of the liquid money they have running through their veins, but those that do, have struck it rich in this blood mine.
â€œIf Iâ€™m being totally honest, I probably wouldnâ€™t have done it if I didnâ€™t get paid,â€ Lucas admitted. â€œBut it does go to a good cause, which is nice.â€
Each visit to the center puts about $30 in donorsâ€™ pockets and consistent donors can accumulate up to $300 each month in compensation.
With tuition bills, rent and Thirsty Thursday pitch jars frequently left untouched by the typical poor college student, selling plasma has become a popular trend at universities across the country.
â€œAt centers located in college towns, we normally see a spike in donations during the month of September,â€ said Christopher Florentz, manager of corporate communications at CSL Behring, the parent company of the donation center on Elizabeth Street, CSL Plasma. â€œThe number of donors always tends to increase when students return to campus.â€
CSU students like sophomore art major Lauren Orton have found their way to this blood gold mine and have practical uses for the fruits of their â€œlabor.â€
â€œHonestly, Iâ€™m donating because I got a parking ticket last week and canâ€™t pay for it,â€ Orton said.
For the typical conscience, selling bodily fluids for money raises a few hesitations. Many wonder what plasma is, and why strangers are willing to buy it from an 18-year-old they donâ€™t know.
Blood is made up of two parts: a cellular and a liquid portion. Plasma, the liquid portion, contains essential elements in bleeding and infection control such as proteins, clotting factors and immunoglobins.
â€œPlasma collected by CSL Plasma is sent to our manufacturing branch, where itâ€™s used in the design of treatments for serious diseases,â€ Florentz said. â€œAll the plasma we collect stays within our company.â€
According to CSLâ€™s official website, these components play vital roles in the treatment of immune deficiencies, bleeding disorders such as hemophilia and fluid replacement therapies following severe shocks, burns or surgeries.
The process of separating the liquid plasma from the blood is called plasmapheresis and is performed by an automated instrument.Blood is drawn through the machine while the plasma is collected and the red blood cells returned to the body; this process usually takes an average of 45 to 90 minutes to complete.
Two pints of plasma are collected when the plasmapheresis has concluded. It takes an average of one to two days for the body to replace the plasma. Due to this time period of replacement, donors can donate a maximum of once in two days, but no more than twice per week.
â€œMy roommates and I calculated that if we each donated the maximum number of times every week, we could make enough money to cover our entire rent,â€ said sophomore engineering major, Sam Hummel. â€œWeâ€™d even have one dollar leftover to do whatever we wanted with.â€
Although the process is significantly simplified the second time around, initial donations are time consuming. Registration requires proof of identity, a social security number and proof of residence within the marketing area. Preliminary tests are run before donors are accepted, including a reading test, a sample blood test and a review of the informational booklet given when you walk in.
These preliminary tests are something sophomore engineering major Grant Hargrove knows all too well.
After preparing to give plasma for nearly an hour, Hargrove was kept from donating due to his overlooking of one specific rule.
â€œThey asked me when I had last given blood and I told them I wasnâ€™t sure which day of August it had been,â€ Hargrove said. â€œThey told me they would then have to assume it was Aug. 31, making it too soon to give plasma.â€
Tattoos or piercings less than 12 months old, pregnancy and trips taken to certain foreign countries during specific years will inhibit oneâ€™s ability to become a donor. Studying these rules carefully before waltzing into the center will save donors much time and frustration.
According to the website, this extensive process â€œis for the donorsâ€™ safety as well as the quality and safety of the product.â€
While the large room lined with people plugged up to machines, patrolled by workers in white lab coats with plastic guards drawn over their faces, may resemble a scene from â€œ1984,â€ Hargrove wasnâ€™t phased. He plans on returning to the facility as soon as he is able.
â€œThe whole thing can seem a little bizarre, but Iâ€™m not nervous,â€ he said. â€œIâ€™m used to being stuck with needles.â€
Lucas, on the other hand, isnâ€™t sure he will return to sell more plasma. The â€œ60 minutes of uncomfortable pressureâ€ in his arm wasnâ€™t quite worth the $40 he was handed after the process.
â€œI would probably not do it again unless I was really desperate for money,â€ he said.
Collegian writer Colleen Canty can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is plasma?
Blood is made up of two parts: a cellular and a liquid portion. Plasma is the liquid portion.
It contains essential elements in bleeding and infection control such as proteins, clotting factors and immunoglobins.
Plasma plays a vital role in the treatment of immune deficiencies, bleeding disorders such as hemophilia and fluid replacement therapies following severe shocks, burns or surgeries.
The process of separating the liquid plasma from the blood is called plasmapheresis. Blood is drawn through an automated machine while the plasma is collected and the red blood cells returned to the body.
Steps to selling plasma:
Check in at the front desk with a valid form of identification, proof of residency and proof of a social security number.
Employees will check your vital signs and perform a finger stick so they can check the level of the red blood cells and plasma proteins in your blood and record your medical history.
The automated plasmapheresis machine removes whole blood, mixes it with an anticoagulant solution, separates the plasma into a container and then re-infuses the red blood cells back into the body. This process takes about 45 minutes.
The body replaces the plasma over a one to two day period.