Blood plasma for sale: the positives, negatives



    Blood plasma donation is known around Provo as a get-rich-quick cash collection, but many BYU students remain uninformed or have mixed feelings and opinions on the subject.

    “I went to get some extra bucks,” said Brian Peterson, a senior from Burley, Idaho, majoring in pre-med. “A couple buddies told me about it, so I decided to try it.”

    Peterson made twenty dollars the first visit, and said it was worth the money because “you don’t have to do anything.”

    “My veins are too small,” said Michelle Swan, a senior from Burley, Idaho, majoring in nursing. “They tried, but I was infusing, (the blood wasn’t going back in her veins), so they said I couldn’t do it.”

    Swan received fifteen dollars for her first and only visit.

    Was it worth the money?

    “Well, I don’t know,” Swan said. “In nursing, I know it’s definitely needed, but I don’t like getting money for something like that.”

    Many people have the impression that donating plasma is like giving blood, said Jeff St. Clair, 28, manager of Provo’s only plasma donating facility, Alpha Therapeutic Corporation.

    “People think of whole blood donations, like they’ll fill a bag and that’s it,” St. Clair said.

    Plasma is the water component of whole blood, which is removed from a vein in the arm, spun in a centrifuge which separates the plasma. The blood cells are then returned to the donor intravenously.

    “The plasma is used by Alpha Therapeutic Corporation, a pharmaceutical company, to manufacture medications from the plasma,” St. Clair said. “It is processed extensively in the manufacturing. There is no direct human use.”

    The safety of donating is often a concern to uninformed students, but it need not be an issue.

    “Diseases are next to impossible,” Peterson said. “They take all the precautions and there is nothing unsanitary about it.”

    Doctors and registered nurses are on site at all times, according to St. Clair, and the body naturally replenishes its plasma supply within 48 hours.

    “My boyfriend freshman year loved it,” Swan said. “He went twice a week and earned quite a bit. He enjoyed it, and was really athletic and all, and it didn’t slow him down a bit.”

    Peterson had a slightly different reaction.

    “I felt like I couldn’t exercise — but not awful.”

    “We recommend coming in after eating a good meal,” St. Clair said, “and to increase fluid intake…at least eight, eight ounce glasses of water per day.”

    The plasma center opens at 8 a.m. daily and closes at 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 6 p.m. on Friday, and 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

    “The drawback is that is takes a big block of time,” Peterson said. “There were lots of people in line when we went back again, so we didn’t have the time to wait.”

    St. Clair said students are welcome to bring in textbooks and often get a lot of reading done during the visit.

    “It’s like getting paid to study,” he said.

    The average donation takes between an hour and forty-five minutes to two hours with additional paperwork processing time on the first two visits. Cash is paid after all donations.

    “We’re interested in people coming in twice a week,” St. Clair said. Alpha Corporation’s pay scale is set up to reward habitual donors. The first three donations pay $20 each, plus five dollars more with advertisement coupons for the first two times within three weeks.

    “It’s possible to make $95 in the first two weeks,” St. Clair said, according to the new donor pay scale. The standard pay scale pays slightly less, with the first visit at $15, the second at $20, the third visit at $15 and the fourth at $25, St. Clair said.

    The pay scale is based on continued visits twice a week (not less than 48 hours apart). When a visit is skipped, the payments start over at $15 and increase from there.

    The center also features such extras as daily and monthly prize drawings for their donors and a birthday bonus of $5 for donating the week of your birthday. A Gold Donor Program also rewards those who visit eight times a month for two consecutive months.

    “I’m neutral on the subject,” Peterson said. “I wouldn’t recommend it, but I wouldn’t discourage it either.”

    “I would recommend it,” Swan said. “I’m not at all afraid of blood, and I’ve never heard of any negative effects in all of my nursing classes.”

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