Patrick Herdener donates plasma twice a week, every week and earns between $50 and $70 per donation.
That means he typically donates plasma 104 times a year and makes about $6,500 before tax.
Herdener said he has started donating money, but the spirit of being helpful motivates him now.
This recounted essay is based on a conversation with Patrick Herdener, who lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma and donates plasma twice a week. He receives between $50 and $70 per donation, which Insider verified against documentation. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
To be honest, when I first started donating plasma, the main thing that motivated me was money. I was about 25, unemployed, and had rent to pay.
My best friend at the time told me about plasma donation, where I could earn money by letting a machine filter the plasma from my blood. Back then I think the pay was about $30 a session. I went just enough to pay the bills, as I was single and had no family.
Now, though, I’m much more serious about it. I go twice a week, usually Wednesday and Friday, every week of the year.
These days I walk away with between $55 and $70 for each session. On Wednesdays they pay me $55 and on Fridays $70. It adds up to about $6,500 a year before taxes.
But this is not my main income. I mainly use it to buy birthday presents and Christmas presents for my wife and children. And to replace parts on my mountain bike. I break many parts.
I started donating more often when I learned where my plasma was going. My plasma donation center, run by CSL Plasma, has put up a sign listing the diseases and disorders that plasma can help treat, such as hemophilia or immunodeficiency.
About two or three years ago, they put up another sign. Each month it features a new photo of someone receiving treatment for one of these ailments. It’s actually nice, it makes it a little more personal.
I’ve been donating twice a week for 13 years. The only time I stopped during that time was when my blood filtering machine broke down during a session.
The bowl that held my blood was full and just starting to spin the plasma, when it suddenly broke. I immediately lost a bowl of blood, not just my plasma, but my red blood cells as well.
I was fine. I still went to work and then cycled home. They still gave me a full payment as well.
But I had to wait 58 days to replenish that blood I had lost. You cannot donate if you are low on blood. This could send you to the emergency room if you tried.
Other than that incident, my streak has been unbroken.
The nurses use an 18 gauge needle to draw my blood. There’s only one vein in my arm big enough for a needle that size. That’s why I switch arms so my scar tissue doesn’t get too thick. I also use a vitamin E gel to help my skin heal and reduce scarring.
The pain is usually not too severe. It depends on the person attacking you. With some people, the pain is no worse than when you donate blood. With others you feel nothing.
The process normally takes 49-55 minutes. One lucky day, it only took me 35 minutes, but it was a one-off. I can’t replicate that no matter what I change.
To help keep the process quick, I stay away from most pork products and only eat cheese in moderation. Those foods increase the fat content in my blood, which can clog the filter in the machine.
When the filter becomes clogged, a process that normally takes 49 minutes turns into 2 hours. Finally, my arm hurts from elbow to fingers.
I also drink a liter of water a day. Staying hydrated is important so you don’t get light-headed.
I would encourage others to donate plasma if they can. It’s just an hour in your day and it really helps people. You might even find it interesting to have conversations with other donors or with the nurses while you’re at it.
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