COLUMN: SELLING MY PLASMA IN THE PANDEMIC

NATHAN STEPHANY, GUEST WRITER

In the middle of October, I joined the ranks of almost 30 million other Americans who had or would test positive for COVID-19. 

After my roommate tested positive, I knew it was only a matter of time, and I tested positive the next day. Thus began 10 days of isolation, complete with massive amounts of boredom, inconsistent Wifi, and food ranging from lukewarm to edible. I was extremely fortunate, being young and relatively healthy; my symptoms were mild and manifested as muscle soreness and lots of naps. 

Ten days later, I was sprung from isolation, healthy and clear to interact with the rest of the world again. My time with COVID was immediately a distant memory, one that I was very happy to forget. However, a few weeks later, I was able to use that time for my profit. My research confirmed some rumors I’d been hearing: that Biolife, the plasma donation company, was paying notable amounts of money for plasma donations that had COVID antibodies. 

Like most college students, the prospect of easy money was too good to pass up. There was an added bonus that I could use what had been a miserable experience to benefit me. After two trips to Cedar Falls Biolife, I had turned my positive test into hundreds of dollars. And while those initial donations were the largest amounts I’d receive money-wise, the money is still large enough and easy enough that I make the drive twice a week.

Every trip to Biolife begins almost the same: a temperature check, sanitizing, and an online health test. From there, a staff member gives you what amounts to a personal check-up: a finger prick to test for blood, a weight scale, and a blood pressure test. The goal is always to clear you for donation, and there are many factors that can stop a donation. I’ve been double-checked some days for issues like high blood pressure, dehydration, or a fast heart rate. This week I got an extra check-up after they spotted a large bruise on my arm, just to cover their bases. 

From there, you proceed to the donation chair. There’s a bit of poking and prodding, some more sanitation, then the final needle poke, which is over in a single second, and you’re strapped in anywhere from 30 minutes to about an hour. The machines do most of the work; your only responsibility is to squeeze your fist to pump blood and you’re free to read or be on your phone. 

For me, the trip takes about an hour, twice a week, and manages to be the easiest job I’ve had in a while, and it pays more per hour.

Biolife isn’t for everyone, after all, there are plenty of health reasons that can, unfortunately, keep people who would like to from donating. And as with anything that you do frequently, it doesn’t go smoothly 100% percent of the time; I’ve had one or two uncomfortable moments or simply days where my blood won’t cooperate.

But for one college student who’s a little broker than they’d like to be, the blood money from COVID is a goldmine.

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