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Give and Take

Plasma and blood donations increase in tough times.

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For several years, Memphian Kenny Davis has been bringing in a little extra cash through regular blood donations at the Tennessee Blood Services on Poplar. But lately, Davis hasn't been the only one.

"There's more and more people coming to the blood bank now that the economy is bad," says Davis, who is unemployed. "I'm seeing more people who say they haven't been there before. It used to be a lot of repeat customers."

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Though he didn't have statistics, Dino Grisanti with the Tennessee Blood Services confirmed an increase in donors.

Davis receives $25 each time he donates, and blood donations can be given every eight weeks. Paid blood donations are collected for medical research and therapeutic purposes rather than for direct patient care. Volunteer donations, through organizations such as Lifeblood, are used for patient transfusions.

"The Food and Drug Administration regulates that, because they want to make sure what's going into another human is safe," says Jennifer Balink with Lifeblood. "If donors are compensated, they might not be as truthful about preexisting conditions than a volunteer donor would be."

Since blood can only be donated six times a year, many people hit by the economic slump have turned to paid plasma donations as well. Plasma, the liquid portion of blood, may be donated two times in a seven-day period so long as the donations are 48 hours apart.

According to ZLB Plasma spokesperson Christine Kuhinka, plasma donations have climbed from 10 million donations nationwide in 2005 to 18.5 million donations last year.

ZLB Plasma is a national company with a donation center on Park Avenue in East Memphis. Most plasma centers pay about $30 per donation. Kuhinka says the donation process takes about 45 minutes to an hour.

"Once people start donating, they realize this is a life-saving activity," Kuhinka says. "Plasma is used to manufacture biotherapies that treat serious and rare conditions, like coagulation disorders, immune deficiencies, and genetic emphysema, and for wound healing in critical-care facilities."

To donate, individuals must be between 18 and 59 years old, weigh at least 110 pounds, and have a clean bill of health.

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