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Some looking to plasma donation to make money in tough economy
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Steve "Lightning" Scott of Axton donated blood during a Red Cross bloodmobile Thursday at Liberty Fair Mall. He is shown at left with Megan Gammon of the Red Cross. Scott was not paid for the donation, but some organizations do pay people to donate plasma, a part of blood used in medical research and treatments.

Friday, March 6, 2009

By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer

As the economy continues to decline, some are searching for, and finding, novel ways to make money.

Sharon Held, director of the local chapter of the American Red Cross, said there has been an increase in the number of callers to the agency asking "about blood-for-money" programs.

Held attributed the increased calls to the state of the economy. "People are desperate to make money any way they can," she said.

However, Held said she is not aware of any organizations in Martinsville or in Henry or Patrick counties that pay for blood donations.

The term "blood for money" is a misnomer for the collection of plasma, defined by as the liquid portion of the blood in which cells are suspended.

Plasma is collected in a process similar to that of blood collection in that a needle is placed in a vein in the arm and whole blood is withdrawn, according to the Web site.

The Biomat Center (Biomat USA) in Danville, which pays for plasma donations, is one of about 80 plasma collection centers under the Grifols umbrella, according to Christopher Healey, vice president of government and public affairs of the Los Angeles, Calif.-based parent company.

Donated plasma is used to produce "lifesaving medicine" for those with debilitating diseases such as hemophilia and primary immune deficiency, Healey said.

First-time plasma donors are required to undergo thorough physical exams, and the company collects a detailed medical history on each donor, he said.

The process can take up to four hours to complete for first-time donors and about 90 minutes for repeat contributors, Healey said. Providing the donated plasma successfully passes stringent tests, it is sent to Los Angeles, where is it used in making medicine, he said.

Because of the time factor involved, Healey said the company feels donors should be compensated, and they are paid an average of $25 to $30 per collection. According to FDA regulations, people can donate plasma up to two times in seven days.

"Our donors represent a cross section" of society, Healey said. Contributors are "white collar, blue collar, homemakers, college students" and others, basically from "all walks of life."�

All are motivated by different reasons, Healey said. For instance, many may have had a family member who suffered from a debilitating disease and see plasma donation as a way of helping. Others may save the money for a vacation or holiday fund.

Although some may donate plasma simply as a way to earn "pocket money ... we go to great lengths to educate them" about the importance of plasma and the medicines it helps to produce, Healey said.

By comparison, the Red Cross "is singularly involved in volunteer blood" contributions to help those in need, Held said.

Locally, blood donations increased during November/December, the most recent data available, even though the local organization failed to reach its nearly 800-unit goal during the latter months of 2008. Held said the chapter missed the goal by only 72 units, compared with a more than 100-unit shortfall typical during that time frame.

"We always want to hit our goal," she said, adding the agency's goal is based on the amount of blood needed by the hospital.

Data related to January and February collections is not yet available, but Held hopes the number increased.

For those who are interested in donating blood, there are a number of Red Cross blood drives held locally, including one each Thursday from noon to 6 p.m. at Liberty Fair Mall. A second drive is held at the mall from 3 to 8 p.m. on the second Monday of each month.

Both are located inside the mall near the former Goody's store.

The bloodmobile also will be at River Community Bank, Riverside Drive, Bassett, from 1 to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, March 17; Patrick Henry Community College from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, March 19; and First Baptist Church, Collinsville, from noon to 6 p.m. on Monday, March 30, according to the Red Cross Web site.

For additional information, call the organization at 632-5127 in Martinsville and Henry County or 694-3505 in Patrick County.


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