Number of fluid donors rises

A bad news economy has become good news for the donation business -- as in blood, egg and sperm donor companies.

An increase of such donations for pay has been seen at Talecris Plasma Resources Augusta Center and Xytex International in Augusta.

Danielle Moores, of Xytex, which accepts sperm and egg donations, attributes some of the increase to a campaign for donations the company recently started. But, she added, "at the same time, we have spoken to some of our donors and they have told us, 'Yes, for financial reasons; that's why I have done this.' "

Xytex normally gets five to six applicants a month. Since December, it has had about 30 per month, said Myra Stillwagon, a medical laboratory technician and donor counselor. Ms. Stillwagon said she has heard some applicants mention financial reasons, including one man who didn't qualify and wondered if there was anything else he could provide.

"He needed the money," she said.

Only about 5 percent of those who apply at Xytex become donors. Applicants must be between the ages of 18 and 38, healthy and college educated.

"A lot of people have a misconception that anyone can just stop in and leave a donation," Mrs. Moores said. "All of our donors are really carefully screened."

Ms. Stillwagon said donors can't make more than three donations a week. She said they can make up to $1,200 a month, but it usually takes six weeks to get a paycheck.

At the Augusta location of Talecris Plasma Resources, which opened last year, officials say they also have seen more people. Employee Jeremy Pulley said it has had about a 200 percent increase in donors in the past four months.

Steve Goldsmith, a spokesman for Talecris, said that 2008 figures haven't been tallied but that nationally plasma donors increased from 12.5 million in 2006 to more than 15 million in 2007.

"You find that a lot of people come in for the first time because they've heard this is a way they can make some extra money," Mr Goldsmith said. "In Augusta, yes, we've seen an increase throughout the year since we've been open."

The center collects plasma to help people with such conditions as primary immune deficiency and hemophilia. Mr. Goldsmith said people are compensated because it takes longer than a typical blood donation -- about two hours -- and donors have to come back more than once. The first donation is screened, and the second helps verify that screening.

Donors must be a U.S. citizen or have some sort of legal status in the country, have a permanent residence in the area, be at least 18 years old and weigh at least 110 pounds. Donations may be made up to twice a week at Talecris, and payments range from $20 to $40 per donation.

Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 823-3338 or preston.sparks@augustachronicle.com

WANT TO DONATE?

TALECRIS PLASMA RESOURCES AUGUSTA CENTER: 2704 Peach Orchard Road, Augusta, (706) 771-3211

XYTEX INTERNATIONAL: 1100 Emmett St., Augusta, (706) 733-0130 or (800) 277-3210