Blood money

The scars on Samantha Hike’s arms are evidence of her economic struggle.

After a friend suggested she start donating plasma to earn a little extra money, Samantha, now a junior at Ball State, walked in the front doors of Biolife Plasma Services alone, nervous, and with no idea of what to expect.

I need money, but is this worth it? The then high school student asked herself.

Biolife Plasma Services is a facility with locations throughout the country that provides compensation for the donation of plasma. The donation process takes between 30 minutes to an hour and requires a series of blood withdrawals as well as blood replenishing. Once the blood is collected, the plasma is extracted. Then the machine returns the donor’s blood back through the same needle.

The plasma extracted from the donor can be used to remedy multiple rare illnesses and diseases, such as lung disease and bleeding disorders.

After a lengthy process of physicals, testing, and questioning, Samantha found herself sitting in a room waiting to be “stuck.” Her first experience in the chair filled her with terror that she still gets every time she donates. Samantha’s biggest fear? The needle. Which to this day still makes her uneasy.

She says that the needle is larger than the one used for normal blood donation because the blood must also be returned back into the bloodstream after it is collected.

Even after years of donating plasma, needles continue to be one of Samantha’s biggest fears. And yet she continues returning to donate.

The reason is simple: Samantha needs the money.

Because she is paying for college on her own, Samantha’s bi-weekly paycheck from her on-campus job, the $300 she receives every month from her father, and the presidential scholarship–which covers about half of Samantha’s burden of tuition–have not been enough to sustain her financially. The income she receives from Biolife is crucial to her financial independence, as if it were a second job.

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