Continuing increases in college expenses have left many students strapped for cash. Even those with jobs may seek out sources of quick and easy income. BioLife Plasma Services, located at 465 W. Stuart Road, will compensate individuals who donate their plasma – the liquid portion of blood. By donating the maximum of two times per week, students can earn a fairly modest supplementary income, but are there any potential health drawbacks to consistently donating plasma?

Jennifer Gremmels, the Corporate Communications Representative for BioLife, said that donating plasma is a low risk medical procedure with minimal or no side effects.

“Before a donor is accepted into the BioLife Plasma Services donor program, he or she must pass a medical examination and a survey of his or her medical history is performed by a member of BioLife’s professional medical staff,” Gremmels said.

Several medical aspects are examined during the pre-screening process. Plasma donation labs check an individual’s blood protein levels, weight, blood pressure and hematocrit levels – a measure of the percentage of red blood cells in an individual’s blood – before being approved for donation.

Laura Olbu, clinical supervisor for Plasma Lab International in Everett, said that any reputable plasma center will recheck hematocrit and blood protein levels every week to make sure they are in an acceptable range.

“They have a weekly tracking of what those levels are, and if those levels start to drop, that individual should be deferred,” Olbu said. “Once they get below that level, you cannot donate until those levels are brought back up to normal.”

While donating plasma is a highly regulated process, Olbu said that there could be potential side effects after donating such as dizziness, vomiting or passing out brought on immediately after donating. She said that if a donator has had little sleep and is poorly nourished, they might experience dizziness or fatigue throughout the rest of the day.

Junior Demetre Phinizy donated plasma for the first time in Oct. and said that he barely felt any side effects at all.
“I donated in the morning and was surprised when I felt fine immediately afterward,” Phinizy said. “Throughout the day though, I started feeling more tired than usual.”

Olbu said that anyone planning on consistently donating plasma should make sure they maintain a healthy, low-fat diet and evenly space out throughout the week the days they plan to donate. She said that females should avoid donating while menstruating and that sick individuals should not donate because donating plasma can temporarily hamper the immune system.

Plasma Lab International only accepts donations from individuals with severe food allergies and certain autoimmune deficiencies. They compensate donators with $100 per donation and are currently paying $300 for a first time donation for individuals with egg or milk allergies. BioLife Plasma Services will compensate donators with $50 for the first two donations if they are within a week and $35 per donation afterward.

Director of Medical Services of the Student Health Center Emily Gibson said that donating plasma has other benefits to society besides compensation.

“Plasma is a valuable commodity to chronically ill patients, so it is an important service to donate plasma,” Gibson said. “I don’t see any concerning long-term problems as long as it is done at reasonable intervals.”