Peter John McLean
Donating Plasma For Money (Personal History)
If you are thinking about donating plasma for money, read this first. Chances are you’re strapped for cash and thinking, hey, these blood suckers will give me a handful of cash and a free cookie, and all I have to do is sit in a chair and let them drain my vitae. How bad can it be?
I get that. I’ve been broke before. I used to sleep on the floor of a bookstore, surrounded by asthmatic cats and ex-cons, and I had friends who donated plasma. Before you do it, though, ask yourself a couple basic questions.
- Are you tired of having so much energy?
- Do you ever wonder what it would be like to stagger around in a woozy haze?
- Is it worth your time to sit in a waiting room for two hours to get your blood sucked out?
- Would you do basically anything for forty dollars?
If you answered yes to all of the above, then fine, donating plasma is the right career path for you.
Right around the same time Paul and I were risking our lives to dump some trash, he started donating his plasma for money. At the time, we both thought it was a brilliant idea, but I kept having excuses not to go. I didn’t have a job at the time, or any money, or anything to do with my free time, but I still kept passing on the idea because the only people I knew who donated plasma were homeless ex-cons and I was still holding out for better career prospects.
Paul, however, had a car payment he had to make. He couldn’t just lounge around a ranch house filled with overflowing trash bags. He had to make money.
He explained the process, complete with his own pro tips for survival, which years later I have distilled into the following retarded wisdom.
How to Donate Plasma
Eat something two hours beforehand. According to Paul, you can’t eat right before for whatever reason but if you haven’t eaten at all you will faint or die. They give you a cookie but – dig this – the stingy bastards won’t even give you a preemptive cookie, so you have to be prepared. They don’t want to waste their bottom shelf stale sugar cookies on someone who might get cold feet.
You also can’t smoke before so you have to sneak behind the building and grab a last cigarette break before you start the waiting process. If you are a career nicotine addict prepare for two hours of misery; if you aren’t, prepare to feel vastly superior to basically every other person in the room.
After the grueling process of getting your lifeblood squeezed out of you, be sure and ask someone when you are allowed to return. If the establishment is even remotely respectable (which it might not be) they will have some kind of card to remind you when you can return. But again, we are talking about donating plasma, it isn’t going to be a luxury membership rewards card that earns you points towards your next Lamborghini Murcielago. Let’s be real.
Case Study: Paul
My friend Paul is the only person I’ve known well enough to witness the entire transformative process that plasma donation offers. Having worked in a public library in the late 2000s, I was already well informed about the general process of plasma donation thanks to the dozens of conversations I had with homeless people, but they were already fucking crazy so I never noticed anything different about them. Paul, on the other hand, started out as a reasonable upstanding citizen with a well groomed beard, a car, living family members, and the ability to maintain a normal conversation without asking someone for spare change. He was in a completely different category from the usual plasma donation crowd.
The first couple of times he went to donate plasma, he dropped by my house after and I teased him for the bruised purple spot on his arm, where all the precious fluids that kept his body alive had been squeezed out. He agreed, it was kind of funny, but now he had money for gas and cigarettes so who cares.
A week or two later he dropped by my house and, being three in the afternoon, I was shit-faced on cheap gin. I ran over and slapped him on the back and almost knocked him to the ground. He looked up at me with his pallid chemo-face demeanor and told me I was an asshole. He didn’t feel well, he said.
“Jesus man,” I muttered and helped him to the back porch where we sat and smoked cigarettes. I hadn’t seen him this fucked up since we had driven all night from Durango and even then he just slept it off and was back to being the bearded asshole I’d always known and loved.
The following week was even worse. After exchanging a few more pints of his precious lifeblood to the plasma racket for twenty or thirty dollars at a time he could hardly stand any more. He was always dizzy, sick, and tired.
“Is this really worth the money?” I had to ask.
“Nope. But I need the money.”
The man had a point. I knew at that moment that the moral of the story was that it’s really easy to take advantage of broke people.
Paul went a few more times before realizing he valued his happiness at more than twenty dollars a week. He stopped going and within a few weeks he was back to his previous fervor. He could stand without leaning on something. He could receive backslaps and light punching without collapsing to the ground. He could walk across entire parking lots without needing a break to catch his breath.
He was back.
So is donating plasma worth it?
Nope. They pay barely the equivalent of minimum wage in exchange for your time and ability to stand upright without collapsing. At least fast food employees leave their jobs somewhat capable of standing and generally devoid of purple welts and injection sites. When you take into account the time in waiting rooms, the time spent getting plasma squeezed out of your arm, and the rest of your life where you waddle around in a dizzy haze, there is no argument that donating plasma is actually worth it for the money.
But if you really need the money, you’ll probably do it anyway.