Students can watch a movie, read a book or rest their eyes for a few hours to make a quick $55. But what seems like easy money comes with a catch: they are hooked up to a thick needle that drains plasma from their bloodstream.
For some starving college students, donating plasma is the simplest way to earn extra money. For others, this somewhat harmful procedure is not a practical use of their time.
First-time donors can receive $25 on the first visit and $35 on the second, according to the Provo Talecris Plasma Donation Center. The standard paycheck after each visit is $25, so students have the opportunity to earn almost $200 in one month. Each plasma drawing takes one to three hours.
Some believe that the plasma centers themselves are not the most enjoyable places and can sometimes seem “sketchy,” said Jeremy Snow, a 24-year-old UVU student from Park City.
“I think because a lot of sketchy people go there,” he said. “What you see in there is a bunch of college kids who are in desperate need of money and a bunch of white-trash people who are also in desperate need of money.”
Others believe these donation centers are worth coming back to.
Todd Wittman, a paralegal business owner who lives in Orem, said he has visited the Provo Talecris Plasma Donation Center since 2009.
“I have had almost 300 donations, which speaks for itself in reviewing Talecris,” Wittman said.
Kashia Marie Ozuna, a student at UVU, said she loves Talecris.
“I have been coming here for a year and I wouldn’t trust any other center,” Ozuna said. “The staff is knowledgeable and extremely friendly.”
Cheryl Deming, lab manager at the BYU Student Health Center, said donating plasma is both common and harmless.
“I don’t think there’s really any risks involved,” Deming said. “They’re overseen by the FDA. It’s all very regulated. They’re inspected all the time. A lot of kids do it.”
Many college students turn to these centers to pay their car insurance, rent or college expenses. Some just enjoy having a little extra money.
Martina Bailey is a junior from Ghana studying family studies. Though she’s on full academic scholarship, Bailey said she has considered earning a little more money.
“I’ve been thinking about it, only because I can get money. I think that’s why people do it,” Bailey said.
Bailey can also relate to the many who frown upon this painful practice because of its negative image.
“I don’t like how they call it ‘donating’ plasma, because they pay for plasma,” Bailey said.
Susan Wride, a junior from Farmington, studying public health, agreed. She said she has been approached on campus by plasma enthusiasts.
“Just because they do that makes me worry that it’s not very safe if they just tell random people to come,” Wride said.
Plasma companies are so eager to market to Utahns, Deming said, because “nobody uses IV drugs, they don’t have HIV, they (plasma centers) know that when they check for blood they don’t have to throw very much of it away.”
According to the Talecris Plasma Center website, the liquid part of blood is plasma, and it is “easily restored by your body.”
According to the website, “It (plasma) is mostly water, but also contains hundreds of vital proteins and antibodies that help fight infection and control bleeding. Your donated plasma is the source material used to make life-saving therapies.”
Doctors require donors to wait two months between donations, according to information from the American Red Cross website. Plasma donors, however, are encouraged to donate semi-weekly.
“They really like you to donate a couple times a week because they don’t have to keep doing paperwork. That’s why they pay you more if you come twice a week rather than doing it once and quitting,” Deming said.
CSL Plasma, known as the World’s Premier Plasma Collection Company, is a global specialty bio-pharmaceutical company with plasma manufacturing plants in Europe, Australia and America. CSL collects plasma and informs many interested about the process of giving plasma.
According to CSL’s website, “current FDA Regulations state that the maximum frequency of donation is once in two days, and no more than two times in a seven-day period.”
The main side effects of frequently donating plasma are possible platelet deficiencies or scarring.
“Some people have gotten a little bit of a scar on their arm. I have seen some bumpy scars on people’s arms that donate over and over again,” Deming said.
“My nephew donated plasma all the time while at BYU; it paid for his comic book habit. He did have to go in and have surgery on his jaw once, and they said his platelet count was low. I really think it’s because of the plasma,” Deming said.
Her nephew got his comic books, the center got their plasma and everyone was happy.
This popular pastime will most likely continue as students search their pockets for extra money and plasma centers solicit to those students on street corners.