Richson: The upside of plasma donation


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The beginning of the school year has announced itself again with swarms of solicitors on the Pentacrest passing out handy little coupon books, as local businesses are aware that most college students take no shame in tossing up a fist pump after saving a buck or two on a sub sandwich. The books are filled with the word “free,” even going so far as “FREE STD Testing” … probably not the best breed of “free,” but it’s the principle.

Then, there are the Biotest advertisements. “New donors can receive $50 today and $100 this week.” Not a bad deal. “New donors will receive a $10 bonus on their first donation.” Free money.

Not to mention the people in Biotest ads literally look like they’ve just had the time of their young lives donating plasma. Just like the smiling people in the BioLife Plasma Services advertisements.

The first time I heard about receiving payment for plasma donation, I was a tad put off. For lack of better description, donating plasma is basically draining your precious bodily fluids in exchange for “free” money; I wondered if the people donating their plasma would miss it or even notice it was gone.

But it turns out there are no apparent physical consequences of plasma donation. Although some see it as a bizarre form of “pimping” one’s body out for money, it seems that there are no tangible downsides to donating plasma, especially for pocket-change-mongering college students.

According to the Biotest website, donated plasma can ultimately be used to treat burn victims, people suffering from hemophilia, people who have been exposed to tetanus, those who have just come out of major surgery, and a variety of other medical situations.

Aside from the fact that you get paid for your donation, plasma donation actually seems like a moderately heroic act, provided that one meets the eligibility requirements for donations.

The BioLife website states that to be eligible for plasma donation at its facilities, one must be at least 18 and no older than 69, weigh a minimum of 110 pounds (shouldn’t be hard with all the pizza-deal coupons circulating around these days), and agree to a more extensive medical screening at the plasma-donation facilities. BioLife donors even get their own cute orange debit card; who couldn’t use another debit card? BioLife’s tagline, “Save a Life. Receive Money.” is hard to dispute.

There seems to be a bit of discrepancy on how often those who are eligible can donate plasma; the American Red Cross states that you can donate plasma every four weeks, or essentially a bit more than once a month should you choose to do it consistently, but BioLife claims that a person could donate up to twice a week.

A college student who genuinely needs the money is probably inclined to go with the latter, but people should be aware that there are some minor side effects such as potential dehydration, and you shouldn’t drink alcohol the day prior to or after donating.

But as BioLife’s website also points out, “plasma cannot be produced synthetically,” so it seems that living, breathing, cash-desperate college students are in all seriousness the best bet for those in need of donated plasma. Maybe we are good for something other than taking naps and buying discounted pizza after all.

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