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Plasma donations an option for quick cash

Published: Thursday, April 9, 2009

Updated: Thursday, April 9, 2009 05:04

Although there have been reports linking the economy with the increase of college students donating plasma for monetary compensation, that does not seem to be the case at UT.

Lana Thornhill, a freshman majoring in early childhood education, said she has never tried donating plasma.

“I think other people might be more likely to do something like that to get something in return,” she said. “[I would] probably ... if I was really strapped for cash.”

Ciara Stevenson, a freshman majoring in business management, said because of her commitment to ROTC, her college expenses are all paid for.

“I could see someone doing that just because, if I wasn’t in ROTC, I would have to scrounge to find money to pay for college,” she said.

Renee Miller, a sophomore majoring in criminal justice, said, however, she would not resort to donating plasma even if she needed the money.

“I just don’t like needles, and I’d try to find a job or something,” she said.

The process in which whole blood is removed from a donor and separated into its component parts, including white and red blood cells, platelets and plasma, by a specialized medical equipment is called plasmaphereses. According to The Plasma Protein Therapeutics Association’s Web site, 20 million liters of plasma are used globally every year to manufacture plasma protein therapies for patients with blood clotting disorders, immune deficiencies or autoimmune or neurological disorders. The plasma is retained, while the other blood components are returned to the donor’s body, the Web site stated.

There are two plasma donor centers in Toledo: Biomat USA, Inc. and Talecris Plasma Resources, Inc., both on Dorr Street.

For first-time donors, Biomat offers a $25 compensation, and the rate increases after that, according to a representative from the center. Donors can donate up to twice a week. Biomat is usually busy with donors from all walks of life, not just college students.

According to DonatingPlasma.org, donors must pass two separately administered medical examinations, medical history screenings and testing for transmissible viruses before their donated plasma can be used to manufacture plasma protein therapies.

Vice President of Government and Public Affairs Christopher Healey of Grifols, Inc., the company that oversees Biomat, declined to comment or release data regarding college students at their plasma donor centers, with the concern that such correlation “denigrates the gift of life that these individuals make and is disrespectful to the thousands of people who rely on plasma medicines,” he responded in an e-mail.

Teneice Delgado, a graduate student in the literature department, said she does not think the economy influenced the number of college students who are plasma donors.

“I think especially in a working class area in Toledo, I think kids have always done that,” she said.

She added that she has a friend in the construction industry who would resort to donating plasma for monetary compensation when there are no jobs available.

Communication Manager for the Western Lake Erie Region of the American Red Cross Annie Marckel said their data indicated there has been a decline of blood units from last academic year.

Although she does not know the cause of the decline, she said many different factors may come into play.

“I’m sure with these tough economic times, there are people that have more than one job these days just to make ends meet,” she said. In addition to that, she said she understands that students usually have busy schedules and probably can’t make it to the blood drives.

“We have to collect at least 300 units of blood every day and our region, we have 23 hospitals in our area that we provide blood to, which is throughout 11 counties, and that’s in northwest Ohio and Monroe County, Michigan,” she said. “The demand is just so high.”

Marckel said the demand for blood increases in the summer.

“As we get closer to summer and the weather gets nicer out and things like, that people are out and about doing more outdoor activities, and as we get closer and closer to the summer months, there is that natural tendency for there to be more trauma accidents,” she said.

Unlike plasma donations, blood donors do not get monetary compensation. Instead, she said they are always finding creative ways to attract donors’ attention.

The next blood drive will be from April 20 to 23 in the Student Union Building. The drive is called the “Pint for a Pint Blood Drive” where students will receive a pint of ice-cream in return for donating a pint of blood.

There is another blood drive during the summer where one donor will win a Napoleon Harley Davidson. The drive will be three months long and span 11 counties.

Marckel said 20 percent of their donors nationwide are college students and high school students.

“I encourage people if they do want to donate beyond college and university blood drives, that there’s a blood drive in the community at their church or anything like that; we definitely encourage people to call 1-800-Give-Life to schedule an appointment because we do have blood drive every day throughout our region in many locations.”

According to National Institutes of Health, almost 5 million people in the United States receive blood transfusions annually, requiring almost 14 million units of whole blood and red blood cells. Scientists have not yet been able to develop an artificial substitute for human blood.

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