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June 25, 2014 by kmwelden

I had my blood harvested yesterday. I feel like the term “donating plasma” is so misleading. They try to make it seem like you’re doing this really great thing to help people, but at the end of the day—that’s not why anyone is there. It is quite the cast of characters, and I promise you, “provide life-saving therapies to people around the world” is not even on the top three for any of us. If I was feeling altruistic, I would have called the Red Cross. (Who—incidentally—also sell our blood. They just provide cookies and Coca-Cola instead of dollars. How American.)

Anyway, while I was in college, I once traveled to the plasma donation center in North Charleston. I’m not a person who generally feels unsafe or paranoid, but y’all– in a seedy shopping center in North Charleston in broad daylight at the plasma donation center—I felt like I was potentially going to be knifed by a patron (also potentially some employees). I walked by the people in multiple states of collapse leaning against the front of the building looking minutes from death (blood loss, obviously) and stood in line for under three minutes while watching a couple become irate at the request to confirm their address in some way before I dip set to the comfort of my car, which just SCREAMED, “My dad bought for me! I go to the nice liberal arts college downtown! I am leaving here to go to Starbucks!”  I could not cut it in the mad world of plasma donation. Yet. I was wearing a North Face, for the love of God. That’s pretty much negative street cred.

So here I am, a little over a year later. I’m just coming off a year serving seventh-graders who quite literally live on the wrong side of the tracks. Grown adults no longer scare me in the least, because the meanest (and kindest! And most mixed up!) people on the planet are 12-year-olds. I felt pretty confident that if anyone at the donation center got three inches from my face and called me a bitch, they would be asked to leave the premises. These same consequences for behavior don’t exist in schools, so I knew I would be okay.

Yesterday I drove out to Aurora (left the North Face at home), asked a nice security guard in the parking lot of the strip mall where to go, and found myself at the plasma harvesting donation center. To be fair, this one looked a little more reputable than Charleston’s finest. For one—lines were a concept that existed here. Two—no one barked at me. Figuratively or literally.  Three—I didn’t feel like my safety was in immediate peril. I won’t say that everyone in the room smelled fabulous, because that would be a lie. And there were definitely some characters I wouldn’t rush to invite to my child’s birthday party (but maybe they have a really great personality!). For the most part, though, the entire process was really simple and a lot like donating blood. It is bizarre to see a huge room full of gurneys filled with people who have a couple hours on a Tuesday to spend selling blood. But times are tough, man. Sometimes you gotta do shit to get by.

Personally, though, if someone wants to take my blood and pay me $35 while I watch The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, I think I’m on the winning end of that deal. Step up your game, Red Cross. And in actuality, as all of the posters hanging on the wall tell me, I’m saving lives. So thanks for the money, and you’re very welcome. I’ll be back Thursday. Soon I will be a regular and make friends on the same donation schedule as me. My mom will be so proud.


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