By Jessica Haugen
Student Brandon Mykel Van Den Eykel sits at his table doing homework with a blue bandage around his left elbow. He just got home from donating plasma at BioLife Plasma Services in Fargo. The business is part of Baxter Healthcare Corporation, a manufacturer of products that save the lives of people with immune disorders, hemophilia, and kidney disease.
Van Den Eykel has been donating for two years. He goes twice a week from August to May as long as he isn’t sick.
“BioLife is an opportunity to earn some money,” he said. “It’s two hours out of the week where I can get away from school and help some other people.”
He described the process as simple and quick.
When Van Den Eykel first went into BioLife, he had to get a pre-donation screening. Employees gathered his medical history and gave him a physical examination. Staff also checked to ensure he had a healthy diet and weighed enough to donate.
Van Den Eykel has only been turned away a few times. Throughout the years he’s become aware of what type of diet he needs to donate frequently. Overall, Van Den Eykel said he just makes sure he doesn’t eat a lot of sweets the day before he donates so that his blood sugar isn’t too high. There are no specific foods he can’t eat; it’s really just important that he’s health-conscious.
The real process begins after the screening when a staff member inserts an IV, hooked up to what is called an automated plasma collection device. This is used so that blood never enters the machine, but plasma is still effectively extracted.
Whenever Van Den Eykel visits he can expect to be there for about 45 minutes.
For plasma to be used, BioLife requires donors to come two times within seven days. The first time a donor gives plasma they receive $20, the second time, they receive $50. When he is finished donating, Van Den Eykel receives a BioLife Visa debit card. Then each time he donates after, his earnings are loaded onto his card.
This offers a secure and convenient way for people to receive their funds. The cards can be used at any place that accepts Visa debit cards and can be used to withdraw cash at ATMs. BioLife gives all their donors a list of ATMs that don’t charge a fee for getting cash; the card looks very similar to any bank card.
There are a lot of college students who rely on the money they receive from BioLife to pay rent or buy food. It’s an easy way to get money, so long as the donor isn’t afraid of needles.
“It depends; normally I don’t need the money,” Van Den Eykel said. “I try not to depend on it.”
Donors don’t need to donate plasma all the time if they don’t want to; they can go as often or as little as they want.
Student Heather Grosz, for example, only goes when she needs some extra cash.
“It’s something easy to do that doesn’t take that long,” she said.
Since there is always a need for plasma, Grosz said donation is something that she always has in the back of her mind in case she could use some extra cash.
It should be known however, that there is a downside to donating. If done too often, a person runs the risk of never being able to donate again. Excessive plasma donation can lower the amount of antibodies in a person’s blood and can lead to nausea, mild or moderate bruising, extreme hunger, and dizziness.
Overall, Van Den Eykel encourages other students to give donation a shot. Though the extra cash is nice, helping people is the thing he enjoys most.