Have you ever considered selling your body for money? Surprisingly enough, there are many students on Western’s campus who have made this choice in order to earn $45 a week. Alright, now that I’ve nabbed your attention in an inappropriate, misleading and immature way, I’ll be more specific: these students are not selling their body sexually, but rather, they’re selling their plasma.

Plasma is the liquid component of your blood, in which your red blood cells are suspended. Blood itself is composed of 42 percent red blood cells, 1 percent white blood cells and 57 percent plasma. Plasma is comprised of 90 percent water and 10 percent protein, salt and electrolytes.

So how does this scientific mumbo jumbo translate into $45 dollars in your pocket? BioLife Plasma Services is a nationwide company that gives money to plasma donors so they can collect the valuable biomaterial to sell to other companies, which manufacture the plasma into “a wide variety of life-saving products that benefit thousands of people everyday,” according to BioLife’s web site. These products are used in the treatment of hemophilia, hepatitis B, tetanus, rabies, measles and immune system deficiencies, according to the same source.

In order to begin the donation process, you should call the BioLife office in advance to set up an appointment. Your first appointment will be a very thorough physical in order to screen prospective donators for various blood-borne illnesses. It also is an opportunity for the medical staff at BioLife to make sure that your body is healthy enough to donate plasma.

Once you begin the actual plasma-removal procedure, you get to “lay on a comfy bed and use the free wireless internet, watch movies, study or talk on your cell phone,” said Kim Popek, a sophomore at Western. “The only thing you can’t do is sleep.”

While you lounge comfortably, your blood is being pumped out of your veins into a machine which separates your plasma from the red blood cells. After the separation is complete, your red blood cells are put right back into your body.

“It really doesn’t hurt,” said Popek, who has contributed her plasma 35 to 40 times. “When they put the needle in you, you hardly feel it. When I’ve donated blood, I’ve passed out every time, and I’m really sensitive to passing out, but donating plasma hasn’t bothered me at all.”

According to Popek, the process takes about an hour, and you can donate up to two times per week.

Now that your veins are popping with excitement, here’s the fun part: you get paid $15 for your first visit in the week, then $30 for your next visit, and you are handed the cash as you walk out the door. For those of you who can’t add, that’s $45 per week, and $180 per month—provided that you donate two times a week, every week.

So, this all like a relatively quick, painless way to make some money, but when I proposed the idea to my mother, who is a health professional, let’s just say she didn’t…jump…at the idea of having me sell my internal fluids. Her main concern was the effect it could have on my health.

BioLife’s web site assures prospective donors that, “Donating plasma is a very safe procedure with minimal or no side effects.” Since plasma is made up mostly of water and protein, it is strongly advised that donors are well-hydrated and eat 50 - 80 grams of protein daily. Eating fatty foods on the day of donation is not recommended, because it can change the color and consistency of plasma and make you ineligible to donate that particular day. Donors are also asked to up their iron intake by eating food high in the nutrient—like tuna, lean read meat or leafy vegetables—or by taking iron supplements. Overall, a healthy lifestyle is a good way to keep one’s body healthy when donating plasma.

In order to obtain an unbiased opinion on whether or not plasma donation is safe, I contacted the Director of Western’s Student Health Center, Dr. Emily Gibson. “The primary concern for individuals who are donating is to make sure they have stable cardiac status so there blood pressure and heart can handle the procedure of blood removal and plasma extraction and they have no signs of infections that can be transmitted through blood products,” Dr. Gibson stated. “I do not believe a healthy individual has any risks in donating plasma on a weekly basis.”

If you are interested in donating plasma, you can visit www.biolifeplasma.com, or contact the Bellingham BioLife office at (360) 756-1700.