I’ll start things off by saying that I’ve lived a tremendously privileged life. So if you read the title and instantly felt sorry for me, stuff it in a sack.
My parents were always able to supply me with new clothes, shoes, sports equipment, and usually the newest iPod. I never had a car. But I could always borrow one if I needed to drive around our bubble of a neighborhood where negligence of cleaning up dog shit was the closest thing to crime anybody worried about. We didn’t go on lavish vacations every year. But every few years my parents would surprise my siblings and I with a beach trip or something along the like.
Since the age of 16, I’ve spent every summer and the majority of every school year working odd jobs. I’ve cut lawns, watched neighbor’s dogs, babysat, waited tables, tutored, valeted cars, and posed as a security guard at a library (no I didn’t get a gun or a taser, just a flashlight) in attempts to relieve my parents of the money pit that I was.
But my junior year of college consisted of a congested course load with no time to feasibly work. I mean, I guess I could have cut out drinking and smoking weed to save a few bucks. But I’m only human. Everybody needs a vice or two.
Luckily, my parents took the reigns of my rent (told you I was privileged). But still, living on your own is costly. Groceries are a large part of it, but not the only problem. It’s damn near impossible to pass up tacos and margaritas on a Monday, just as it’s unbearable to miss out on dollar beers for Thursday happy hour. Not to mention I’m always thirsty on the weekends as well. This led to a bank account that plummeted quicker than that whole planking fad a few years ago.
Nearing the final 2 months of the school year, I simply needed more spending money to live out the college lifestyle in which I had become accustomed to. I had always heard tales of a clinic where you could walk in and sell your plasma in a process similar to giving blood. I’ve never particularly been afraid of needles and I heard rumors of 50 bucks. Naturally I was interested.
So after getting out of class, I ate a modest meal of leftover spaghetti and downed a Gatorade, readying myself to trade blood for booze money.
I walked in shamefaced and feeling shitty for what I was about to do. I can only imagine I felt similar as to how a prostitute feels on their first night on the corner. That might not be the most precise comparison, but you feel me.
After filling out a stack of paperwork I was motioned to begin a questionnaire at a computer. I was told that I’d face about 30 minutes of yes/no questions regarding my medical history, something I could easily handle.
The questions started out harmless like “Have you ever had an allergic reaction to latex” but rapidly progressed into more loaded questions like “Have you ever engaged in homosexual intercourse in Prison.” I had to think about it for a sec, but I was pretty sure I was a no for both.
After the questionnaire I got sent into a medical examination room that also included a desk, 2 chairs, and a computer. There we went over all of my questionnaire answers again. Then I scanned my fingerprint for electronic sign in purposes to donate plasma again in the future.
After everything checked out, I got sent to a station to get my iron tested via finger prick. They also took my temperature, weight, and kept asking when I had eaten last as if they didn’t believe me.
After about an hour and a half after walking in, I was finally given the green light to become a human juice box. I was ecstatic that I’d finally be making the money I had heard rumors of. Even still it was tough to shake the shame.
Within 5 minutes I was hooked up with an IV and pumping away. Rather than getting the typical squeeze ball that the nurse assured me were all taken, I got to pump away with a ball made up of four medical gloves, pretty legit if you ask me.
The donation procedure went in cycles. I would pump for about 10 minutes as blood slid through the tube and into a giant pitcher looking thing attached to a tall machine. Every so often a buzzer would sound, signifying the separation of blood from the plasma. Graciously, the machine gave most of my blood back to me. It probably sounds slightly morbid to you and that’s because it kind of is. It is the equivalent of taking all the juice out of Capri Sun pouch, removing the sugar from it, then putting it back in its original container. When the blood is getting pumped back into your arm, you get a metallic taste in the back of your mouth. The closest feeling I can equate it to is smoking a bowl of aluminum foil shavings.
This process went on for about an hour. I passed the time watching Hannibal Buress stand up videos in attempts to forget about the fact that I was pumping away my plasma for a measly 50 bucks. The sad thing is, 50 bucks really only equals two solid nights of drinking or an 8th of weed from my dealer upstairs. I remember thinking that it is definitely more moral to sell drugs than your own plasma. But like I said before, I’m far from a saint.
After the machine’s touch screen displayed that I had donated my medically approved 850 somethings of plasma, a young nurse, not much older than I, unplugged me from machine and wrapped my arm up tight. She mentioned that it’d be a good idea to wait around for a few minutes since it was my first time. I asked why and she told me that it’s not uncommon for first time donors to pass out. What a thrill! Instead I said fuck it and headed straight to the bottle shop down the street and treated myself with a mid level priced beer in lieu of my regular Natty.
Once I got home, I realized that the last thing I wanted to do was get drunk. I felt sluggish, tired, and almost as if I were getting over the flu. I forced myself to guzzle water for hours, hoping it’d magically make me feel good again.
But I’m a man!!
So I forced myself to go out that night and as you probably could have guessed it was a rough go. The next morning I wanted a brain transplant and thought I was going to have to swear off alcohol forever.
But that didn’t stop me from donating another 10 times before the end of the semester. This caused me to live in fear of what my parents would ask in regards to the needle marks in both of my arms for the first month of summer. I remember for a few seconds debating what would be worse, telling them I had sold blood for money or intravenously injected drugs. I think it’s safe to say neither would have gone over well.
At this point in my life, with student loans looming over my head and a dwindling bank account, I can’t say that I won’t get back to selling my fluids for money next semester even though I know that I shouldn’t. But like I said, I’m no saint.