Wednesday, July 18, 2007


by Gina Sestak

I've mentioned before that I worked my way through college doing various jobs. One of my most desperate ways to make a living was selling blood plasma.

You have to understand that I am terrified of needles. One of my earliest memories is panicking when Dr. Kissell, our family doctor, tried to give me a shot. I kicked him in the chest, leaving a little dark footprint on his white coat, and he had to ask a woman from the waiting room to come in and help my mother hold me down.

This fear of needles served me well in some circumstances. Since I didn't have much money, I often ended up sharing cheap living space with other people. Some of them were into drugs, injecting morphine or speed or whatever they could melt down enough to get into a hypodermic. I was never tempted to try. When they'd start shooting up, I'd get so queasy that I'd have to leave the room.

When you give blood, you have to wait more than a month between donations. That's because you're giving whole blood.

Plasma centers only take the plasma -- the yellowish fluid in which the blood cells float. They start by taking whole blood, then spin it to separate out the plasma. The blood cells are then mixed with saline solution and returned to the donor's body. You can sell plasma two times a week, which is about the most I could handle, since I'd have to psyche up for a day or two before I could face the needle. The pay wasn't much - $5 for the first donation of the week, $10 for the second. At that time, though, that little bit of money made the difference in whether or not I could afford to eat.

What did I learn from this experience?

I learned to overcome fear.

I learned that I can survive, no matter what.

I learned compassion for all of the truly desperate people of this world.

I learned to resist peer pressure.

I learned to look beyond appearances -- not everyone whose arms show tracks is a junky.

And I gained one more interesting experience to blog about.


Tory said...

One friend of mine made money by participating in various metabolic research studies. I think it was a lot of strange diets and giving blood for not much money, but it got him through at the time.

Your comment yesterday, Gina, got me interested in how your kitchen is decorated!

Nancy said...

Jeez, Gina, you have lots of material for books!

Anonymous said...

Gina, just reading your post makes me queasy. I can't get bloodwork done without passing out. Get a needle near me and I'm on the floor...literally.