Plasma For Beer Money: The Broke Penn Stater Solution

I’m gonna be honest — my story about how I discovered BioLife is not unique. I came back to campus this semester with a dismal bank account and decided to give the whole plasma donation thing a chance. The prospects of finding a job that doesn’t involve a visor seemed unrealistic, so I just tried to forget about all the times people told me, “The needle they use is HUGE.” I found the BioLife website and made an appointment. (If you want to jump the gun and make an appointment before reading all about me blabbering about my personal experience, by all means, click HERE)

Because I made my appointment a week in advance, it gave me just enough time to imagine plenty of worst-case scenarios that could go down when I got there. At first, I started to wonder about the aesthetics of this place, picturing a dark, dingy medical room, equipped with worn counters, gray from use, cobwebs scattered throughout and deranged nurses all with atypical 90’s names like Joshua or Ashley. (Yes, those really were top names in the 90’s, check it out.) I also imagined the weird statue out front having googly eyes that followed me as I walked in, which may be due to the fact that I have been in Disney’s Haunted Mansion one too many times. And by one too many, I mean once.

After I graduated from panicking about the decor, I kept replaying a scenario where I would be strapped down like Frankenstein to some lab table with lots of machines making bleep-bleep-bloop noises and some mad scientist with round framed glasses, crooked teeth and hair that looked like he just electrocuted himself about seven times in a row —  just because he was some creep — laughing wildly as he stabbed some needle to size of a sharpie marker into some inadequate vein in my arm. Yeah, I put some thought into it.

Then I refined it to a more realistic version where the doctor isn’t from a Goosebumps book, and he just has no regard for my aversion to needles. He just jabs it in my arm, but has to do it a few times because it’s not working. Eventually, blood starts squirting everywhere and I pass out. This is what I thought about. For a week. And then came the big day!

While walking into the building, I avoided eye contact with the possessed statue out front. The experience turned out to be the complete opposite of what I had expected. The group of doctors that greeted me at lobby were all young, normal and super friendly. It was bright and lively inside, and everything gave off this sterile vibe that actually made me uncomfortable because then I felt like I should have doused myself in Purell before walking any further.

After about an hour of surveys, questions (Which by the way, 80% of which were making sure you definitely, without a doubt don’t have AIDs or HIV. Which I mean, totally sucks if you do so I’m sorry about that, but they also totally don’t want your blood. Like, at all. Ever. They’d probably set you on fire or something if you walked in there with AIDs and they found out, so just give this dream up now. Heroin addicts, same goes for you, too), giving up some personal info like my home address and that I enjoy long walks on the beach, a finger prick, and a brief physical, I was on my way to the chair. It was game time.

After I sat down, they told me how the whole process worked:

  • The machine takes your blood, separates it from the plasma and then pumps the blood back into your arm. This happens about 8-10 times.
  • When the machine makes a beeping sound and the green lights flash. That is when you know to clench your fist. (It helps to keep the blood flowing) You do this for a few minutes until the compressor on your arm loosens. This also happens about 8-10 times.
  • At the end, they inject a room temperature saline solution, so it feels really cold. Your arm feels like it was just covered in Burt’s Bee’s chap stick.
  • Then it’s over.
Okay, so here’s the part I know you’ve all been waiting for: when they were about to put the needle in I totally looked in the other direction. I didn’t want to watch the whole gruesome scene go down, but to be honest, I could barely feel it. I figured, “Hey, it can’t be that bad, right?” And then I looked….
BAM! LOOK AT THAT THING! It’s really not that bad, but I felt like a badass regardless and decided that this picture would garner me quite a bit of street cred by putting it in this post.

I hung out and read my Kindle Fire for about 40 minutes, thanks to the free wifi they hooked me up with. Right before I was finished, they gave me my Visa debit card, where I was compensated for my, uh, fluids? Services? Whatever. It works wherever they take Visa cards and if you use a Chase ATM you don’t get slammed with a surcharge fee. Pretty sweet deal.
What’s even better is that you can do this up to two times a week, with at least one day in between each donation, which means you can make up to $220 a month. YA I SAID IT, $220 a month! Hence why I wasn’t about to succumb to the visor life. So do yourselves a favor and sign up. Not only is it easy cash, but you’re saving some lives in the process.

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About the Author

Maggie McGlinchy

Senior. Print Journalism Major, Spanish Minor. My only childhood memory involves me playing with a toy circus car.

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