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Feb 8, 2023Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

For anyone who’s on the fence about pre-ordering this book, I’ve read Blood Money twice and it completely delivers on the promises talked about in this interview. I don’t know if there’s anyone I’ve read in the past many years who’s had such clear sight of the class and economic inequality issues in America, and the choices they force people to make.

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I’m an infusion nurse and oh boy we give a lot of this drug, IVIG (we’ve always just said the letters out loud rather than turning it into a word, don’t know if that’s common or not). It’s really expensive. And it is such a mind-fuck, that people “donating” their plasma get, what, fifty bucks? A hundred bucks? And a bottle of the purified product is, I think, a couple of thousand dollars? You can say, of course, that it takes the plasma of multiple people to create 20g of final product, but I think it’s also clear that the companies are making a ton of money off of it.

I remember in one of the mass Covid vaccination clinics a patient told me proudly he paid for all of his college education by donating plasma two or three times a week. I mean, I’m glad he got his degree , but at such a cost. You’re not supposed to be able to donate that frequently because it’s not good for your health, but clearly no one’s checking that closely.

It’s so appalling. Poor people having to sell body parts for cash. And of course, poor people (and non poor people) go into debt all the time to try to pay for their medical care.

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Feb 8, 2023Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

"There is something in journalism where you’re always taking from other people and using them to tell the truths of the world that you already know, from your own experience. We are forever extracting things and walking away." As a former journalist, I want to favourite these comments 1000 times. It is part of the job but it is rarely acknowledged. Thank you for this important and compelling interview.

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I haven't yet read the interview, but had to come down here to say I am dying at "She was a Butte girl through and through — and if you know what that means, well, you know." I lived in Great Falls for 3 years as a child, and my best friend's mom was a Butte girl. 30 years later, you're right: I do know. I also will never get over the delight of the "e" falling off the sign for the Butte Bar, which is my juvenile problem, and that's probably one of the reasons why they don't forget insults.

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This was interesting. I consider myself someone who happens to know a lot of random facts about blood (simply born out of the fact that I have a chronic blood disorder) but I didn't realize there was a global blood industry like this. On a sort of related note (well, on the topic of blood, that is), it's also worth noting that there's a severe blood shortage here in the U.S. when it comes to red blood and platelets. I've written about it a bit but it's not being widely covered in the media. (You are not paid in the U.S. to donate red blood or platelets and only ~3% of those eligible to donate in the U.S. actually do... even though someone needs blood every 2 seconds, according to the American Red Cross.)

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Feb 8, 2023Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

I remember my parents selling plasma in the 80s in Ohio to get extra money - I always thought it was strange to get paid for plasma but to donate blood for free. I’ll have to ask my mom about her experience. Sounds like an excellent book.

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it may be a bad sign that my main takeaway from this was "maybe I should actually sell plasma". I've thought about it for years when I see the collection centers, but it feels like getting money that easily must come with a catch so i never looked into it further. I appreciate the opportunity to learn more about it.

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Late to this conversation. In the late 1990s I took a job to open the first blood donation office in North Central Idaho. It was winter and I drove to Missoula every Sunday afternoon and back to Idaho every Friday afternoon for 10 weeks. I was so excited and proud to be a part of the American Red Cross, founded by one of the great mothers of nursing, Clara Barton. I would be working for the most recognizable non-profit humanitarian organization providing rescue and relief services around the world and have been providing blood for trauma and seriously ill patients for decades. After the stardust wore off I realized I was in charge of a drug manufacturing facility following all of the FDA regulations filling 9 huge binders behind my desk. There were quotas for blood units each week and it was up to me to make sure that each unit donated was perfectly obtained and managed until it was shipped to the processing facility. I saw the exploitation of donors to make big money from selling human blood to people who were in a life or death situations. I was working for a corporation, a vast bloody business. One unit of blood can produce multiple products each which can be sold for hundreds if not thousands of dollars. When 911 happened Elizabeth Dole, President of the American Red Cross, announced that there was a blood shortage and people flocked to blood donation centers. Truth be told, the number of blood units needed was great in New York but there was adequate national supply for that need. Later it was discovered that the ARC made millions from a national disaster, a terrorist attack. I no longer donate blood because I believe it is exploitative of donors, receivers and the workers who are underpaid simply for the distinction of working for the concept of altruism.

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I am 0- as is my entire immediate family. Over the years, I've been woo'd and have donated many gallons of my blood. I've rarely felt very altruistic in doing so, though, because I've made semi-educated guesses regarding how much money is being made by others up the pike, profiting from my precious life-saving fluid. I need the money, too, and I'd happily provide blood every two months if I could receive compensation. I considered selling plasma, but the pay seems so paltry compared to the risks.

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I know so many teachers who sell plasma. I used to do it in college but started having to sleep the rest of the day after extracting and then got to the point where I would pass out in my car after giving. That ended that! At the time, though, the $50 per week I could earn was the fastest and easiest money I could earn and it was my grocery and drinking money. Not being able to give anymore definitely hurt my budget. Many teaching colleagues now ask why I don’t do plasma and I explain the pesky passing out thing and the response is always “that’s a bummer” not so much about the passing out but about the lack of earning potential. So excited to read the book, btw - I have requested that my library purchase it and have downloaded the galley from Edelweiss!

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I sold plasma as a young recent college grad working temp jobs. What I remember most is the bone-chilling cold of the saline drip they gave me to keep the line open while they centrifuged the blood. Such a chunk of time and discomfort lying there shivering that I had the good fortune to leave behind years ago. I had no idea it had this global reach.

That comparison to agricultural exports gives me another kind of chill.

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I’m also late to the party but as a University of Montana alum, I was a committed (read: very broke) plasma donor at BioLife. I utterly hated it; the needles are huge and it takes nearly two hours hooked up to a machine to extract enough. I felt so small alongside all those other desperate students trying to pull a passion job out of an extraneous degree, including a particularly awful day where I passed out and fell off the bed in a crumpled pile. Truly terrible. But then, after all that, they give you $75 and make you another appointment for the next week and you’re like, well I managed to destroy most of myself today, but not the part that knows we’ll have to live on $200 next month.

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This is so interesting to read because I switched to going full time freelance in the past few months (and hence irregular income) and have just started ads for donating plasma on YouTube.

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