In college, I did not have much money. What college student does? But usually we have our summer jobs that hold us over. The summer after my sophomore year, however, this did not happen. I had been accepted into a six-week summer program in another state, and who wants to hire someone for only a month? Thankfully, the program was all expenses paid for - yet I wasn’t making a buck either.
I found myself being invited to movies, out to dinner, and to get ice cream almost every day. What savings I had quickly dwindled. I babysat while growing up, but now all my clients’ kids had grown up and/or were now my competitors for the new runts on the block. I could offer to mow the neighbors’ lawns, yet I had never even mowed my own lawn.
I brainstormed what skills and services I could market myself under. Whatever job I decided on, I needed it to also let me sleep in and go to the beach. Then it hit me:
I could donate my sperm.
I quickly researched this job opening. Unfortunately, the nearest sperm bank was two hours away. But maybe it was still viable? You got $50/pop, but it was a full-time job: You had to donate twice a week (whew) for at least a year and a half (damn) and abstain from sex in the interim – and that was only after you were approved. You had to go through extensive genetic and family background testing. But it helped I was college-educated; someone would want my seed.
I pictured being asked about my family lineage and not knowing and then having to go to my mom and ask her the question.
My mom: “Why do you want to know that?”
Me: “Because I’m selling my semen.”
So that wasn’t going to work. My friend also asked how I would feel walking down a grocery store aisle in five years and seeing a mini-Cazey.
Me: “Well, at least they’re not mine.”
This whole sperm donation concept led me to consider what other body parts I could sell. I recalled being told of these centers that paid you for your plasma. Let me look into that.
So, folks, for the next year and a half, I became a plasma prostitute. From day one I called myself that. I even made that my job description on my Facebook profile. It wasn’t like I could hide it: People either noticed the bandage around my arm (since I gave so frequently) or the puncture wound. More on that later.
I got paid $25 for my first plasma donation and $35 for my second. Each week (!). I had to wait at least one day in between visits and no more than two visits in seven days. I optimized my salary by going every Monday and Wednesday. I continued this schedule when I returned to college in the fall.
Sometimes there were bonuses in the summer months or for referring a friend. (I did refer a friend. In her medical testing, she got a false positive for hepatitis and can no longer give blood for life or something like that.)
I gave plasma so often that I became friends with my nurses. I knew their dogs’ name. One time I ran into one of my nurses at a party (her brother was the host). The nurses, for their part, knew me for my low pulse and blood pressure.
I learned how to work the system. The more water you drank, the faster the machine collected your plasma. If I exercised before giving, my plasma would go even faster (and my pulse would be higher). I could get in and out of there in under 50 minutes. Meanwhile, these other kids (okay, most of them were middle-aged, underemployed adults - awkward) would be on the machine for two hours.
Even though it was only 50 minutes, I always brought homework with me. I originally brought a laptop, but then one time it slipped out of my lap, and I watched in horror as it crashed to the ground: I couldn’t reach for it because of the tube in my arm.
Overall, I only had one memorable bad experience from donating plasma. (I don’t know why they call it donating. You donate blood. You sell your plasma. Like, I forfeited blood drives because you then couldn’t give plasma for 8 weeks, and that’s $200, I’m sorry.)
This cold January night – we’re talking 20 degrees – I’m walking home from the plasma center. Yes, I walked to and from the plasma center. I’m holding my laptop, and it’s so cold I really can’t feel my limbs, but then I had this suspicion my bandage had come undone. Meanwhile, there is ice on the sidewalk. I am hop-dancing to get across it. Then I feel the cold gushing down my forearm. There is no denying it, I am bleeding. I panic, go to check my forearm, and I slip and fall flat on my back. The blood flows.
Fortuitously, my apartment was a hundred yards away, and one of my roommates was a nursing student. She applied her classroom knowledge to my spurting arm in my white bathroom.
I only gave up the plasma thing because I slipped up on my daily medical questionnaire and admitted I had had a medical procedure. They kicked me out of there so fast and said not to come back for six months.
Me: “But – but – but – that’s my alcohol money…”
Senior year was hellish, so I was grateful to gain two hours back into my life. Once my six months were up, I contemplated returning to my pimp. My mom interceded and offered to pay me not to go.
I also mulled the fact that I have a permanent hole at the vein in my left arm. This scar has prompted several people to ask me whether I used to shoot cocaine.
Me: “Not exactly. Same walk of life, though.”