Quick cash for a good cause

Donating plasma is quick money: recline in a chair twice a week, get stuck with a needle and earn up to $300 a month. It’s not hard to see why the process might appeal to a college student.

In fact, the financial incentive has been the main allure for most student donors.

“I don’t like needles, so I donated purely for the cash,” said sophomore Brady Huntzinger, who has donated both plasma and blood multiple times. “It’s also a good feeling knowing that I helped someone.”

And he isn’t alone.

“I wanted some extra cash to buy my boyfriend a gift,” said CSU alumni Leah Smith. “I get paid to relax for an hour, and I also get to have nice conversations with the other people there too.”

Those aspects are so alluring to Smith that she donates twice a week at CSL Plasma, a Fort Collins plasma donation center located at 1228 W. Elizabeth St. CSL Plasma is a subsidiary of the national plasma group CSL Behring.

Christopher Florentz, manager of corporate communications for the company, said that student donors do more than just earn cash –– they support a worthy cause.

“It’s not just a matter of donating plasma,” he said. “It’s what we do with it that counts.”

Plasma is used to treat such illnesses as hemophilia, severe burns and shock. It is also used in products for people who have suffered heart attacks or have been exposed to rabies and can be administered to patients undergoing heart surgery or organ transplantation.

Plasma is extracted from a donor’s blood through a process called plasmapheresis. When the donor is reclined and the blood is gathered, the plasma is then extracted from the rest of the blood.  When it’s finished, the remaining blood is returned to the donor through the same needle. According to Florentz, a sterile kit is used on every donor and the blood does not leave the plasma extracting system.

In an email to the Collegian, phlebotomist Elaine Padron from the Poudre Valley Hospital Garth Englund Blood Donation Center said that donors run no risk of serious injury from donating plasma.

“You can not get AIDS from donating plasma,” she wrote. “Everything used to collect plasma or platelets is sterile and discarded after each donation.”

She also noted that a donor can develop scar tissue around the area that is used to gather plasma, but it only occurs if someone donates on a regular basis.

In order to donate, each participant must have an initial medical evaluation to see if his or her blood is healthy enough to be donated. The evaluations include a brief physical, which is repeated annually.

“We monitor the donor’s health right up front to make sure he or she is in good health,” Florentz said.

Along with the medical evaluations, there is a medical director for each center plus a medical staff consisting of nurses and paramedics. The entire process is approved and regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

According to Florentz, CSL Plasma operates one of the largest plasma collection networks in the world. Millions of people have donated plasma since the process was started in the 1950s.

Collegian Writer Sean Meeds can reached at new@collegian.com.