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 earns about $6,500 before taxes.
Herdener said he started donating money, but now the spirit of helping motivates him.
This narrated 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 with documents. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
To be honest, when I started donating plasma, the main motivation was money. I was in my twenties, unemployed and had rent to pay.
My best friend at the time told me about plasma donation, where I could make money by letting a machine filter plasma from my blood. At the time, I think the pay was around $30 per session. I would go just enough to pay the bills, since I was single and had no family.
Now, however, I’m much more serious about it. I go twice a week, usually Wednesday and Friday, every week of the year.
These days, I come home with between $55 and $70 for each session. On Wednesday they pay me $55 and on Friday it’s $70. This represents approximately $6,500 per year before taxes.
However, 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 a lot of parts.
I started donating more often when I found out where my plasma was going. My plasma donation center, operated by CSL Plasma, displayed a sign listing diseases and conditions that plasma can help treat, such as hemophilia or immune deficiency.
About two or three years ago they put up another sign. Each month it shows a new photo of someone receiving treatment for one of these disorders. It’s actually kinda cool – that makes it a bit more personal.
I have donated twice a week for 13 years. The only time I took a break during this period was when the machine that filters my blood broke during a session.
The bowl containing my blood was full, and it had just started spinning the plasma, when suddenly it broke. I lost a bowl of blood immediately – not just my plasma, but the red blood cells as well.
I was good. I went to work anyway and cycled home afterwards. They still gave me full payment too.
But I had to wait 58 days to replenish the blood I had lost. You cannot donate if you are low on blood. It could send you to the emergency room if you tried.
Other than that incident, my streak was uninterrupted.
The nurses use an 18 gauge needle to draw my blood. There’s only one vein in my arm large enough for this needle size. That’s why I’m switching arms, so my scar tissue doesn’t get too thick. I also use vitamin E gel to help my skin heal and reduce scarring.
The pain is usually not too strong. It depends on the person who sticks with you. In some people, the pain is no worse than when donating blood. With others, you feel nothing.
The process normally takes 49-55 minutes. On a lucky day, it only took me 35 minutes, but that was a one-off. I can’t reproduce it no matter what I change.
To help keep the process fast, I stay away from most pork products and only eat cheese in moderation. These foods increase the fat content of my blood, which can clog the filter of the machine.
When the filter clogs, a process that normally takes me 49 minutes turns into 2 hours. In the end, my arm hurts from the elbow to my fingers.
I also drink a gallon of water a day. It’s important to stay hydrated so you don’t get dizzy.
I encourage others to donate plasma if they can. It’s only an hour of your day, and it really helps people. You might even find some interesting conversation with other donors or the nurses while you’re at it.
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