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We have all seen the ads beckoning for new potential plasma donors! They often offer pretty significant monetary incentives and feel good stories of those beneficiaries whose lives have been saved through donations. All the feel good stuff aside, today i’m here for the cash incentives and you get to come with me!

"Money money money money money" -Mr Krabs

Judge my motivations all you want, I’m judging too, but thats the truth. I’m not going to pretend to be some altruistic saint, offering my free time to save lives. While, it’s beautiful, and i’ve done substantial volunteering and donations throughout my life, today its all about the benjamins. It feels good to be honest.

Im currently sitting in the waiting room, having already gone through the very simple process of signing up on the app and scheduling todays appointment. The company i’m donating to is Biolife, who have an app of the same name. Writing about this is also helping with the nerves. I know its safe and have already done my research but its new and a little scary and someone will stab me in the finger and arm shortly, so there’s that.

I used to be deathly afraid of needles but years in the army and a thousand shots later helped me get over it. To me, it is the same thought process as those with a fear of skydiving. They always say “why would I jump out of a perfectly good airplane” and I agree, why stab a needle into a perfectly good arm! The final phase of my acceptance of needles came after my surgery over this past summer. I had to give myself a shot in the stomach every day for a month to prevent blood clots. The first shot was terrifying but shortly after that I adapted.

After a short time in the waiting room I get called up to the check-in station and they take in all my information and explain the process. They have an extensive list of checks to conduct to ensure i’m an eligible donor. Both for my own safety and the safety of the future recipient.

They test my vitals and temperature, inspect my veins, ask about my current and historical medical record, have me read a few policies outloud and complete a 15–20 minute questionairre on the computer, and they do a couple prelimimary blood tests with a finger prick.

The main takeaway is they want to protect their clients and donors. They don’t want to pass on plasma from someone who has any bloodborne illnesses. They try to avoid that with several levels of protection, first being self selection. They ask if you have any diseases or if you engage in any risky behaviors that could lead to them, such as intravenous drug use, sex work, or just a risky sexual history.

The next level is through visual inspection of your veins, looking for evidence of needle abuse. The last level is to test a sample from each donor but of course that is expensive so they try to weed out as many people as possible in the beginning.

The visage you get when in the room is reminiscent of a human farm that you would see from the old vampire movie Day Breakers but with more comfortable chairs. People willingly donating blood to serve their vampire neighbors, cramped somewhat too close together while hooked up to the machines. It really is an odd, and somewhat uncomfortable image, but that can be rationalized away in short order when you remember that vampires aren’t real, probably.

After all these steps are complete, I wait for my one on one interview with the nurse. At this point i’m feeling a little more comfortable. The process has been professional and thorough and I over heard the phlebotomists talking about being regular donors themselves!

The nurse arrives and asks when the last time I have eaten. The plasma taking process can be a little taxing on the body so they suggest you eat shortly before coming. I had not so she gave me an ensure, a stick of beef jerky and a bag of goldfish. Definately getting more comfortable now! Free snacks!

One of the questions from an earlier stage asked about prior surgeries and my sleep apnea and this is where my experience began to derail. I go over both of my achilles tendon repairs and my throat surgery. Yes…both. 11 years apart but yes, I fully snapped both of my achilles tendons. Maybe i’m a descendent of ancient Achilles himself, you don’t know!

Notice the left calf is already super skimmy from the 1st tear!

Firstly, sleep apnea isn’t a disqualifier per se, but it was a stop sign for today and I did need to have my doctor clear me for donation. They gave me a form to have my doc fill out and fax over. It is mostly just a precaution. Having surgeries also isn’t necessarily a problem but still being in recovery is.

The whole point of blood plasma therapy is the healing properties of the plasma. While in physical therapy, I need my plasma to heal. After donating you create more within 24 to 48 hours but during that time your body doesnt have the plasma it needs to heal your injury or illness. This, of course, makes sense and wasn’t something I had even considered. They asked me to come back when I have completed my recovery and gave me a little coupon as an incentive for 25 extra dollars for my first donation when I return.

It was in that moment when my worry and inhibitions started to fade. They did care. They worried about their donors as much as their recipients and not just trying to collect and sell as much plasma as possible. They were a business, so money is the goal, but they were ethical about it.

After getting told I couldn’t donate I had stopped writing. I left it as a draft and was considering just scrapping the article or finishing it after I was able to donate in a couple months. This morning, I decided this failure was important, so I began writing from where I left off in the waiting room. Ethical companies, especially in the medical field, deserve to be shouted out.

So, though I may not have been able to donate, or get paid, I learned a lot about the process and gained some respect for BioLife the company and their practices. At the very least the one I went to was ethical. If you’re considering plasma donation as a side income, or to be a good person or whatever, look for a Biolife near you. Download the easy to use app and see if there is a location nearby.

As for me, I’ll just work a few more hours per week while I recover. I love my job and a few more hours won’t kill me. My fiancee might, she misses me, but the job wont! If you have had similar or wildly different experiences donating plasma drop them in the comment section. I’d love to hear about them!

Merry Christmas everyone!

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