Mar 082011
Authors: Shane Rohleder

Right now I owe AT&T $150. That may not sound like much, but when you only make $300 bi-weekly, $150 might as well be $1,000. Now, I’ve reached three months delinquency and my service has been mercilessly suspended.

So, with my only communicative tool nixed, last week I was on the gig hunt to make some quick cash. When my roommate came home with a bandage around his arm and $50 in his pocket I had to know what witchcraft he‘d been dabbling in.

“I gave blood plasma,” he said.

My search was over — CLS Plasma donation center was to be my next cash cow.

Picture the DMV, add needles and nurses and you’ve got CLS Plasma. Dirty chairs sit in rows in a lobby where people wait to be called into a booth, tested for defects and, god willing, shipped to the back room for draining.

An annoyed woman handed me an information booklet and instructed me to sit and read. I grasped the key points in minutes: Donating can kill you, don’t donate if you’ve shared needles with someone, yadda-yadda-yadda, you will be compensated for donating. Bingo, that’s all I needed to know.

I returned the booklet. The annoyed woman snapped my picture, then sent me into a little room where I received a physical –– without the “turn your head and cough” part.

A lady in a white apron pricked my finger, I blushed, she smiled evilly and escorted me to the back room and handed me off to a man who sat me in a chair shaped like the crescent moon and stuck a needle in my arm.

“Sit down,” he said handing me a small section of plastic pipe. “Squeeze the PVC pipe when the thing around your arm is tight, don’t squeeze when it’s loose because that’s when your red blood cells are being returned to you –– per contract.

He could tell that I was a first time donor and so could everybody else as I was the only one without headphones or a novel. I sat awkwardly squeezing my PVC pipe, looking around the room. I noticed one woman reading a novel entitled “Do Not Be Afraid.” I laughed at the irony.

Technicians meandered about, attending casually to the 20 people in the room. They were like robots: stick, pull, pay, thank and repeat. I felt like a product on an assembly line. Marxist ideals like “increased quantity breeds decreased quality,” filtered through my head. I looked at the needle in my right arm and contemplated its cleanliness — how capitalistic is this, I thought.

The fact that I was saving a life or helping a suffering patient somewhere never crossed my mind. All I could think about was how much I was being paid, and I think that’s all they wanted me to think about.

An hour after I was poked, a new tech came and pulled the needle out — I winced a bit and he abruptly started giving me his well rehearsed exit speech.

“Go home, eat a big meal, drink lots of water, don’t smoke or consume alcohol for at least six hours and avoid heavy exercise. Thank you for donating at CLS plasma today,” he said robotically.

I fumbled out of the room with $50 in my pocket and a bandage around the bleeding hole in my arm.

It’s a week later; the hole is surrounded by a fading bruise. When I look at it I remember how uncomfortable and cold the saline solution was when they pumped it into my body before pulling the needle out, but then I remember my phone bill and check my schedule to see when I can go back again.

Shane Rohleder is a senior communication studies major. His column appears Wednesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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