I paid for groceries with plasma today.

We just got back from Lima after working a few jobs out of town. Despite the money that Dan and I had just made, we found later that night that we would still be short of what we needed for the month. (Stupid medical bills.) The next morning, I decided to gather my courage and plan a trip to my local plasma donation center. I needed to get some cash quickly.

I had driven by the place every now and then, and I always thought about trying to donate for some extra cash, but the reputations of these centers weren’t always squeaky clean. I decided to do my homework the night prior to my first visit there to make sure everything was legit.

csl-plasma-toledo
The donation center I visited in Toledo.

CSL Plasma had opened their 150th center in Toledo, and it just happened to be the closest one to me. After a quick Google search, I checked their website and gathered the information they needed before I arrived, which was my state-issued ID, my social security card, and proof of residency. (I brought a piece of mail with me that had my name with my current address.)

When I walked in, the center appeared to be pretty clean, almost sterile-like. It was actually pretty empty when I arrived that morning, and I had to get the attention of a technician to start the donation process.

The process for a first time donor was lengthy and exhaustive.

csl-plasma-technician
I can only imagine this thing that the techs wear is to prevent themselves from getting blood sprayed in their face.

First, I had to read a sort of packet that laid out the donation/compensation terms more specifically and warned of any risks or side-effects that could occur during and after the procedure. Then, I had to watch a video that covered almost the exact same thing in the packet I had received, and it went on for several minutes.

Afterward, I was directed to a booth where I privately answered 62 questions about my health history to ensure I was a good candidate for plasma donation. My thumbprint was scanned, and my photo was taken. I would use these two things as my ID verification later on for future visits. I was given a prepaid card in an envelope and a donor ID number, and this card would be loaded with cash after each successful donation.

They made sure to note that if a donation was not successful, I would not be compensated.

Once that part was complete, I entered another booth area where my blood was screened. My plasma was tested for levels of protein, lipids (fat), and some other stuff. They took my weight, temperature, and blood pressure. I passed the tests with flying colors. After this, I went to another private room for a physical. It was after this, I was able to sign the actual consent form that I was notified of in the packet I had received.

The whole screening process took about 30 minutes or so.

plasma-donation
I couldn’t take pictures inside of the actual facility, but this is what the machine looks like.

Now that I had signed the consent form and I had been cleared to go onto the donation floor, I was finally ready to donate plasma. I waited for a few minutes before a technician waved me over to a recliner-like chair. An apheresis machine sat on a table next to me, which would separate my blood from my plasma, and then return my red blood cells with some saline solution and some anticoagulant to my body. (Which prevents blood from clotting.)

I was asked if I had anything to eat or drink maybe twice before going to the donation floor, and I did eat about a cup of oatmeal with some cinnamon and sugar, some dried plums, and a piece of toast with butter. I had a glass of water with breakfast. They seemed a bit concerned but nonetheless had okayed me for the donation process.

Around me were others who were already having blood collected, trying to stay occupied as the machines whirred around them. Some looked nervous, others were unfazed and looked like regulars. There were young and old alike with me on the floor and one guy who came in even admitted that he had lost his job and had become homeless. These were all people like me who were hurting for cash, and hopeful for a decent payout.

csl-plasma-donation-floor
What a donation floor looks like. (Photo credit: mlive.com)

The technician was friendly and took the time to explain to me what everything was, what the machine would do, and what to watch for during the collection. The needle went in with no issue (a big deal for me since I have deep veins), and shortly after I started to see the blood go through the tubes and into the machine. I started to see the plasma separate and collect into a separate container, which I thought was pretty neat to watch.

Unfortunately, I started to become lightheaded and dizzy only after a few minutes. I guess I was losing blood too quickly… again. I had warned the tech that I would try not to pump my hand too much to get blood to the machine, or this sort of thing would likely happen. This had happened to me previously while donating blood in high school, and I had blacked out and woke up with everyone hovering over me and freaking out because of how fast it had happened. It was not pleasant.

I notified the staff and two techs immediately came to me with ice packs. One raised my legs high while the other checked on my machine and IV. They stayed with me until I started to feel a bit better. At least this time, I was prepared to avoid that from happening to me again.

plasma-donation-after
My arm after the visit. They really wanted to make sure this was tight enough.

Another tech came over to document everything that had happened. She informed me that I would be paid $50 for today’s visit. I guess I was fortunate to give just enough plasma to get paid – which was what looked like nearly a pint of plasma. Weaksauce.

The whole donation this time ended up taking about an hour and a half of my time, including the screening process. I was also informed that the screening process would be shorter after my second visit.

The staff at CSL Plasma said that I could donate twice a week and earn up to $400 a month if I chose to stick with that kind of donation schedule. However, the American Red Cross provides a guideline for plasma donations and only recommends to donate once every 28 days, or 13 times a year. This was quite a discrepancy, and it kind of disturbed me.

Still, I managed to walk away this time with $48 in cash (leaving $2 on the card for fees). This would allow me to get groceries for the next week while we wait for the next payday. I only felt a bit fatigued for an hour or so after the donation, but I’m happy to report that I’m feeling a bit better after some lunch and a short nap.

Has anyone else had experiences donating plasma for cash? I would appreciate any tips to make a future visit go smoother.

 

 

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