Saturday, September 20, 2014

Blood Money: Donating Plasma as a Side Job

Today's "Frugality Friday" post is a little late.  It was hubby's birthday today so I've been away from the computer baking cake and hanging out. 


A lot of people these days are finding themselves strapped for cash.  If you're having trouble making ends meet and need some money fast, one of the easiest things you can do is donate plasma.  It's not exactly something you're probably eager to run out and do, but it's also not quite as scary as you might think, and there's a lot more people donating these days than just homeless folks and college students. 

What is Plasma Donation? 

Plasma is a fluid in your blood that occupies the space between your red and white blood cells.  It's used in all sorts of medicinal services, including treating burn victims and creating vaccines and medication.  The plasma you donate probably will not go directly to a patient the way a blood donation would, but it will be used for research or pharmaceutical development that could go toward saving lives.

The process of donating plasma is a little lengthier than blood donation, which is why they pay you for it.  It's not actually legal to buy bodily substances from people, but the donation center will reimburse you for the time it takes - usually an hour or so, plus the time it takes to get screened. 

To donate plasma, you will need to go to a plasma donation center and fill out an intake form.  This will ask about your medical history and habits and is used to ensure that your plasma is safe to use.  You'll also undergo a brief physical exam, simple blood test and urine test (to make sure you're not on drugs).  If you pass the tests, you'll go into a room where you'll be hooked up to a machine that will drain some blood, filter out the plasma, then pump your platelets back into you (this is the time-consuming part).

Who Can Donate Plasma?

For the most part, any healthy person over the age of 18 can donate plasma.  There are a few things that will disqualify you from donating:
  • Drug use
  • Insulin-dependent diabetes
  • Heart problems
  • A recent tattoo or piercing (due to hepatitis risk)
  • Having a low protein level (which is the point of the blood test)
  • Being under weight (I think the minimum weight is around 130)
The point of these regulations is to ensure that 1.) your plasma is safe to use and 2.) it will be safe for you to donate it.  

People who are caught lying on their paperwork will be banned from ever donating plasma again.  

How Much Money Can You Make? 

The exact compensation for plasma donation will vary from one center to the next.  In general, larger cities will have more competitive rates.  In my city, the first five donations earn $50 each.  After that, you can earn $60 per week -- $20 for the first donation and $40 for the second.  The amount you earn will depend in your weight (heavier people have more plasma so earn a couple dollars more).

You can donate plasma twice a week.  The amount of time it takes will depend on when you arrive (early morning is usually the best time to get through quickly).  Your first donation will take longer, maybe as long as three hours, because of all the processing.  After that, it should take no more than an hour or two.

So altogether, donating here will earn you about $250/month.  It'll be paid in either cash or loaded onto a prepaid Visa that you can use the same day as you donate.  It's not amazing money by any means, but per-hour it's better pay than a minimum wage job and it's something you can do immediately, making it an attractive option for someone who desperately needs money right now.  It's also a nice supplemental income that can be used to jump-start a savings account or give you a little bit of cushion.  If you spend your time at the donation center doing homework, filling out job applications, blogging on your laptop or whatever, you can maximize the efficiency to get the most out of it. 

Is Plasma Donation Safe?

Plasma donation is generally safe.  Donation sites have to follow strict sanitation standards, and all of the needles and tubing used for you will be hermetically sealed and opened in front of you.  The needle stays in your arm for the whole process, so there's very little risk of any sort of infection or contamination. 

The most common risk associated with plasma donation is feeling faint or woozy afterward.  You can mitigate this by taking care of yourself: Eat a big breakfast before you come in, focusing on protein (something like peanut butter, beans or eggs should do fine), and be sure to drink plenty of water before and after.  Staying well-hydrated will make the donation go by more quickly (since your blood will flow faster), and replenishing the lost fluid will prevent you from feeling ill afterward. 

You might feel a little tired after a donation, especially your second one in a week.  Taking an iron supplement should help.  You should not, however, be feeling particularly sick or anemic.  If you're having problems, talk to your doctor.  And if at any point during the donation itself you feel sick or faint, tell the technician working there so you can get help!

Also note that plasma plays a vital role in your immune system.  If you donate plasma regularly, you may find yourself having a weakened immune system.  Taking care of yourself in other ways can help offset these effects, but by all means give it a rest for a while if you start to get sick more often than usual.  

For more information...
Plasma Donation Information from the American Red Cross
Risks and Effects of Donating Plasma

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