Students finance education through plasma donation

Leighann McGivern

Marcella Robison, junior political science major, has been donating plasma since her freshman year at Kent State to cover the cost of attending college.

Many students like Robison are turning to plasma donation as a way to fund their tuitions and earn some extra spending money.

Robison said she typically tries to donate once or twice a week.

“I found out about it through a friend that was doing it,” Robison said. “I was paying for school out-of-pocket, so I was trying to get some extra money to help me out. That’s how it started off.”

William Sekerak, freshman exploratory major, said he also found out about plasma donation by word-of-mouth.

“I think someone just threw it out there as an idea because I was talking about needing money, and it was more legitimate than my other ideas,” Sekerak said.

Sekerak said he used to donate once or twice a week, but no longer goes as often.

Both Robison and Sekerak said they usually donate at Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Plasma in Akron.

Donors at CSL Plasma are compensated on the spot, with payment amounts varying based on body weight. For the first five times people donate, those who weigh between 110 and 149 pounds receive $35, and those weighing over 150 pounds receive $50.

After the first five donations, the compensation depends upon the number of times a person donates in a week, according to published information at CSL’s Akron Center.

Chris Florentz, who is in charge of corporate communications for CSL Plasma, said plasma is the clear liquid portion that remains after the removal of all other components, including red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Plasma makes up about 55 percent of a person’s blood. He said people can donate plasma more often than they can give blood because the process separates plasma from the red blood cells, which are then returned to the body.

“Donors are allowed to donate plasma twice a week as long as they aren’t donating on consecutive days,” Florentz said.

Robison said she prefers donating plasma to giving blood.

“I feel completely drained after donating blood, like I can’t do anything for the rest of the day,” Robison said. “When I donate plasma, I feel fine.”

Both Robison and Sekerak have also donated through Talecris Plasma Resources, which has locations in Akron and Canton.

Telacris compensates its donors $60 the first two times they donate, regardless of body weight, then the amount depends on the location and number of times a person donates in a week.

Florentz said students’ decisions to donate plasma shouldn’t be based solely upon financial compensation.

CSL Plasma is a partner of CSL Behring, which produces therapies to treat people with rare and serious diseases, said Florentz.

“CSL Plasma operates one of the largest plasma collection centers in the world, and then that plasma is used by CSL Behring to make products that treat diseases such as hemophilia and immune deficiencies,” Florentz said. “The products are also used in cardiac surgery and a whole host of other rare disease situations.”

Florentz said the most compelling reason to donate is that it can save someone’s life.

“Folks who donate plasma – they’re really making a difference in the lives of people who have rare diseases that otherwise either might not be able to survive or certainly might have a very diminished quality of life without it,” Florentz said.

Robison said that for her, donating plasma isn’t all about the money.

“Yeah, the money is a nice part, but you know you’re helping save lives that just donating regular blood isn’t going to get you,” Robison said.

Sekerak said he’d recommend donating plasma to anyone looking to make some extra money and also support a good cause.

“I don’t know what all they do with it, but I know it saves lives and helps people out, so you get a good feeling out of it,” Sekerak said.

Contact Leighann McGivern at [email protected].