Pimping For Plasma - The Truth Behind Plasma “Donations”
May 6, 2005 (Updated Dec 5, 2009)
Popular Products in Video GamesThe Bottom Line Where exactly is all that plasma going???
A few years ago I read an article about donating plasma and thought “Humm, that’s a nice thing for people to do”. I started doing some research about it and decided that I wanted to do my part to help those who needed plasma. What I wasn’t prepared for was the harsh reality of what donating plasma is all about - money. Most places that take “donations” of plasma are owned by pharmaceutical companies that then turn around and use your “donation” to make huge, almost obscene, amounts of money off of. Now, before we get any farther into this topic let me just say this - you do get paid for donating plasma however the terms that are used are very creative. Instead of saying “We will pay you for your donation” they word it cleverly. “Where you donation really pays” is the one that’s used by Plasmacare, one of the biggest places on the east coast. I’ve been rounding up information about plasma donations for a little over two years now and if you ever thought about donating plasma, this is something that you will want to read. Some of the other plasma giants are Aventis Bio-Services, Biolife, PlasmaTech and PharmaPlas. You can also check sites like Bloodbanker.com/plasma to see which facilities are in your area.
What Is Plasma
Plasma is sort of like the binding agent that keeps blood together. If you want the medical version of the word here it is – it makes up about ten to twelve percent of your blood and contains stuff like various nutrients, clotting agents, albumin [this is the material that has the highest protein level in the plasma] and waste materials. Plasma is collected from these donation sites and then it’s tested [or so they say], processed and sent out to places that are purchasing it. It is safe to donate plasma as long as you are going to a place that has a well trained staff and really care about your well being, safety and “care” about what they are doing. Sadly, most of the places that I have been to are dealing with a timetable, number of units they need to collect and want to get repeat customers. You’ll read more about that later - the cash pay off.
The Donation Process
If you think that you are just going to walk into one of these places, roll up your sleeve and walk out with cash you might want to stop right now. Don’t even read the rest of this and find some other way to make some fast cash. Before you do anything you have to have some type of identification - preferably a driver’s license or state issued identification card. if not, anything with your mailing address on it - utility bill, bank statement - anything that is within three months. Then you will be asked a lot of questions such as have you used drugs in the past year, had sex with anyone that used drugs, had sex with someone who engaged in homosexual sex in the past year, shot drugs, took cash for sex, had sex with someone who took cash for sex ... you get the picture. If you don’t know your social security number you better memorize it because you will be asked to repeat it over and over through the whole screening process. This will also be used to identify you on your plasma bags, paper work and photo.
Once you have made it through the initial screening process you will have to read, out loud, a statement, this is to prove to them that you can read - just one of the many quirky little things that take place before you get “approved”. Most places will make you watch a video about plasma donations and take a test after it - in my case I was given the sheet and told to highlight the answers to the questions. Sort of like an open book test so you couldn’t fail it. Then you are called into a screening room where your hemocrit is tested to see if it is within an acceptable range. During this process you are asked even more questions - at least 40. These are about any recent travels you may have had [to rule out the possibility that you could have traveled to a place that has the S.A.R.S. virus], if you have engaged in any type of unprotected sexual activities, gotten a tattoo, if you were in the military, have taken any types of medications, any clotting drugs etc.
After this second round of questions you are told to listen to a tape [this was on an answering machine - how primitive] that tells you that you could face criminal prosecution if you lie about any of the answers you provide. Then you get hit with even more questions, most of which are rather bizarre but they are covering their butts against a lawsuit. Your photograph is taken to keep on file so that you can be identified. Then, then comes the fun part. You get to answer all the questions again when you meet with a doctor for an exam. Well, I am not sure if this person is really a doctor or not, she might have been a nurse for all I know. All the questions that they asked you about sex, H.I.V. and drugs get asked again. If you have any body piercing, tattoos, birth marks larger than a quarter or any branding you will have to tell them because they have to “keep them on file”. The person taking my history was impressed with my little collection of ink and metal [tattoos and piercings] and had more than a few questions for me about them.
Once you go through all this you are given a little cup [not even a urine specimen cup, just a 8 ounce drinking cup] and told to “go give a sample”. This is tested for temperature [so they know it is a fresh sample] and blood sugar amongst other things. Once you pass all this, you get to go to “the collection room”. This is a huge room with about 40 to 50 chairs in it - the kind that sort of look like alien recliners. Once you are called a technician takes you to a chair, seats you, puts your personal items under it and preps you for your “donation”. The amount that is collected is based on your body weight. When I showed up I was 188 pounds so I wasn’t sure how long it would take for me to get done with the whole process. When I looked at my watch I almost fell over when I saw I’d already been there for two hours.
You should start praying now that you get someone that knows what they are doing because if you get someone new, let’s just say it isn’t the most pleasant process to have to endure. Before you donate you will be told to drink at least two glasses of water [since plasma is made up of a lot of it] and while you are getting prepped the tech will tell you that if you notice any tingling in your body, metallic taste in your mouth or feel light headed to tell then and they will slow down the collection rate. There is a small risk that you could go into a post donation shock so after you donate you will have to stay there for a while so they can watch you - you won’t be able to collect your money until the time is up so don’t think about sneaking out.
The donation process can be sped up by squeezing your hand quickly - about once every five seconds. People who go there twice a week have it down to a science and can get in and out in less than 45 minutes. I laid back, smiled and kept telling myself “This will be better than my freakin’ McDonalds review!”. I think that was the one thing that really kept me in the chair because when I saw this kid who looked like he was 12 coming towards me with a prep pack I wanted to bolt out the closest door. I have to admit, I was curious about the whole process after playing 250 questions - and to see exactly how much cash I would get out of this. Some people said they were paid by how quickly they could pump out the plasma and others said that they were paid a flat fee for their donation. But, I will get to that later ...
Once I had the tubes in place [one to collect the plasma and one to return the blood to my body once the plasma was removed] all I had to do was wait ... and observe. There were people of all ages there - from college students to guys who looked like they were in their 60’s. Some where reading, some listening to Walkmans and others watching television. Me, I was like a kid in a candy store looking at everything that was going on around me. The guy next to me sort of laughed and asked me if this was my first time. He started giving me pointers on how to get through the process quicker. We chit chatted and he started telling me why he was there - money. He was a college student that had a part time job and he used the money from plasma to go out and party on the weekends. Since he could donate twice a week he could make an extra fifty dollars [twenty the first time and thirty the second time in a ten day time frame with up to two donations in seven days]. That’s not bad for an hour or two a week and it’s tax free.
I got done in about forty minutes which they told me wasn’t that bad for a first time. I had to wait about fifteen minutes after my donation, have some juice, a couple of cookies and be asked a couple of questions like my name, age, birth date etc. Basic stuff so they knew you weren’t going to pass out on the street. The kid that I was talking to while I was making my donation was waiting outside for me when I walked out with my crisp new twenty dollar bill and he asked me why I was there. There was a fast food place a block or so away so I offered to buy him a meal if he’d let me “interview” him. I guess he was just as curious about my situation as I was of his. Over a meal of greasy fries and old burgers we swapped tales and I made a new friend.
His name is Derek and he’s pretty good looking, not the usual type you’d see in a plasma donation center that’s for sure. He was from some small town in Virginia and had a little bit of an accent. He moved to the west coast to go to school, learn about computers and worked part time at a place that did voice overs for porn flicks. Not a bad deal if you ask me but he said that since he started working there he had absolutely no desire to watch an adult film. This line stuck with me since then, “Nothing cam prepare you for hearing your own voice on a porno tape, talk about ruining an orgasm”. I guess you had to be there to get the humor of it.
Derek isn’t the norm at a place like this. I’ll be honest - most of them look like strung out junkies that are looking to make some fast cash. Sure there are some stay at home moms that do this but they drive at least twenty miles out of their way so that no one will see them or recognize them. I have no idea why they’d feel like they would get chastised for doing this, especially if money is tight and it means an extra $200.00 a month. Derek told me some insane stories of stuff that he saw there and I was honestly intrigued by the idea of seeing some of this stuff for myself. I guess that is what got me hooked on donating plasma, yeah, the money was a perk but I really wanted to see the crazy stuff he and others had told me about. Call it morbid curiosity if you have to label it but I couldn’t pass up free entertainment like this - even if it was only half as good - it was still going to be worth it.
So that started me on a five month little plasma journey. Twice a week I’d slip away to the donation center, get stuck, get my cash and soak in the insanity. So what was the craziest thing I saw? A girl who spent almost a half hour trying to keep from peeing her pants. You have to be a certain body weight to donate - I think at least 120 pounds. She was a tiny thing and she’d drink as much water as she could so she could make the weight. Then she’d have to hold it until the process was over because if they have to stop during it so you can pee you don’t get paid. Then there was the guy that was talking to himself about aliens and coffee grinds and how flowers were evil. This prompted someone to throw a plastic flower at him [these people are all regulars and I assume take a lot of pride in tormenting each other] - so he freaked out, stood up, ripped the lines out of his arm and started stripping saying he needed to cleanse himself to get rid of the evil flower particles.
For five months I went to the donation site to pimp out my plasma. I can’t say that I would have gone back that much if there wasn’t money involved - for me it was seeing the same people over and over, learning about them and what drives them to do this. I guess some people could classify it as an addiction of sorts, some of the people that go there are feeding an addiction - gambling, alcohol, drugs, sex, whatever. They get off on the easy cash that you can make and to be brutally honest - that screening process is a bunch of crap. If they really cared about the quality of the stuff they were getting then they would never let half these people in the door let alone in their seats.
The Ugly Side
When I started checking out other places that purchased plasma and their pay rates it was pretty funny. Some places wanted you to donate a few times before you could collect your cash and others asked you if you wanted to donate for free. There is a huge difference between the east and west coast places that pay for plasma. The west coast places are a little more cautious about who they take donations from and if you have a heartbeat on the east coast - chances are you will have some cash in your hand in a few hours. I did check out some places on the east coast and even went thought their screening process but got tripped up when they did the urine test and my sugar levels were a little to high. Even then the girl told me “Drink a lot of water, cut out the starch from your diet and come back in three days”. Yeah, they really care about the quality of plasma they are getting huh?
I did go back three days later and they never even bothered to check my urine ... I walked in, gave them my name, got weighed, had my blood pressure taken and was told to take a seat. They called me and about ten other people to come back, drink water and wait for a tech. I was dazed - sort of like I was waiting for someone to tap me on the shoulder and give me a cup or tell me that I needed to go through the whole process over again. I got hooked up, pumped away and less than a half hour later was told to “go wait over there”. No chairs ... just some people standing against a wall. That’s the difference between the east and west coast plasma places, at least on the west coast you get some place comfy to sit and primo cookies - all we got were some knock off Oreo’s and watered down Tang.
So what do I think of plasma donation? I think that if it is done for the right reasons - to really help people then that’s cool as hell. But since most of these places are run by pharmaceutical companies that are in it to make a gross amount of cash quick - there is something really wrong. That might sound pretty silly after I spent so much time donating and making money off of it. Let me try to justify it. If you go to donate blood you get a sticker, some juice, a couple cookies and a somewhat sincere thanks when you leave. That blood is used for hospitals, emergency situations and those that really need it. The plasma that is purchased through “donations” is sold to hospitals, clinics and other places that require it - and the mark up on it is something that will make you want to puke. Sure it takes a lot of plasma to make up a “usable” amount for someone that needs it but it’s the insurance companies that end up paying for it so what the hell - mark it up as much as possible and throw a couple of pennies at the people that are donating it.
The FDA [Food & Drug Administration] is involved in the whole process too - they oversee the places with a somewhat blind eye - kind of like that mom at the laundromat. Her kids are in the building somewhere but she has no idea what they are doing. There are some checks and balances that go on with the plasma that is donated but since it is being purchased by a company - who knows what happens after that stuff leaves your arm. Your name is on the bag along with your social security number. Twenty years from now I might get a knock on my door asking me about my plasma donations - asking me about what I had to eat that day, if I knew what they did with it ... with the bizarre questions they asked me when I donated the first time I have no doubt that some of the stuff I donated will end up in some research laboratory somewhere ...
The Bottom Line
Selling your plasma for cash is a sideline business. Most places put an ink on your finger so you can’t go and donate elsewhere but some of the vets tell me that there are ways around that. I couldn’t see doing this more than twice a week and most people play by the rules when it comes to this. Derek went every Monday and Thursday. He said he was never really broke because he’d get $20.00 at the beginning of the week and have $30.00 for the weekend. I still talk to him via email and he’s still doing the plasma donations mostly out of habit. He said he’s gotten into so much of a routine that it’s just habit that makes him go there twice a week.
I am still amazed that no one bothered to ask me to give a second urine sample. Maybe this was an oversight in the paperwork but if they are so concerned with everything else - why have such a lackadaisical approach to this kind of stuff? If you are thinking about donating plasma for cash then you better do some research - the stuff that I’ve told you here is dead on balls accurate but not every place is going to be the same. You will want to make sure that everyone you come in contact with is wearing latex gloves, there’s no blood on the seats [that does happen from time to time - they are called “leakers”], you get paid cash instead of a check [most places have an ATM type machine that kicks out the cash for you] and that your privacy is protected.
This is the kind of place that - if you do see someone you know - you never start screaming their name or waving at them. That’s just one of the “social rules” that you learn after making ten or fifteen donations. Stuff like making sure your personal items are tucked under your chair or seat, never start snoring or fall asleep when you are on the machine and don’t hang around the waiting room when you are done. This really makes the natives restless - they want to get in there and get it over with and the last thing they want to see is someone standing there, with cash in hand, talking about how quick they got done. The staff are minimally trained and most of them are more concerned with what they are ordering for lunch then what is going on in the collection center or at the front desk. I have no idea what qualifications you need to work in this place but after seeing some of these people in action I can say that it mustn’t be much.
So if you are ready to sell off some plasma for some cash there are places all across this great land that are more than willing to take it from you. Hell, you might even qualify for a special study if you have the right blood type, family history or something “different” about your medical history. That’s what really scares me - they want to buy stuff from people that they wouldn’t normally want to buy - what the hell are they going to do with this stuff? I swear, if they start using this stuff to make some kind of military mutant zombie I am heading north and I ain’t stopping until I hit Canada. I’ve seen these “special donors” coming in from time to time - they are getting $200.00 - $400.00 for these “special collections”. I can’t say that there is anything wrong with them but they sure as hell aren’t normal. That’s what really scares me about the “cash for plasma” business ... you never know where that “yellow gold” is going to end up.
As always, thanks for the read!
~^V^~ Freak ~^V^~
© 2005 Freak369