Someone is donating blood.

Plasma donation is one way to pick up a few extra bucks while providing a lifesaving substance for patients suffering from chronic diseases, burns or traumatic injuries. Donors who donate regularly can make up to $5,200 per year, at the time of publication, or more. If you need extra cash to make it through the month, San Diego has three plasma centers where you can donate the golden liquid that saves lives.

Plasma Centers in San Diego

As of February 2015, three plasma centers are in the metropolitan San Diego area, with Biomat USA, Inc. and Octapharma Plasma Inc. inside the city limits, and Scantibodies Biologics, Inc. in El Cajon. When searching for additional plasma centers, look in the Yellow Pages under "Plasma" or do a search online using "plasma donation" and your ZIP code as search terms.

Plasma Donation Eligibility

You must be 18 years old and weigh more than 110 pounds to donate plasma. On your first visit to the plasma center, you must prove your identity, age and residence. Bring a photo ID, your Social Security card, and a recent utility bill or your rental agreement. After you sign in, you will read materials on plasma donation and view a video. A nurse interviews you and performs a physical examination to ensure that you're in good health. If you take medications, bring the list with you. Most prescriptions do not affect your donation, but if you have a cold or fever, wait until you feel better before donating plasma.

The Screening Process

Make a habit of eating iron-rich foods accompanied by a glass of orange or tomato juice. Before going to the donation center, eat a hearty meal and drink several glasses of water. At the donation center, after your first visit, you will go to the kiosk or meet with a screener to go over your medical history. Next, a screener weighs you and takes your temperature, blood pressure and pulse before checking your iron and protein counts. After successfully passing the screening process, you'll wait for a bed.

The Donation Process

When called to the floor, a phlebotomist verifies your identity with the last four numbers of your Social Security number and your full name. She examines your veins and inserts the needle. A centrifuge draws the blood out, spins it to separate the plasma from the red blood cells and platelets, and returns the unneeded blood components and saline solution to your arm. The machine cycles several times during the process. Bring a blanket; you may become chilled during the process. A movie and Wi-Fi access are usually available, or you can read a book.

The Payment

First-time donors usually receive a larger payment for their initial donations. While the payments vary, depending on the center and current payment schedule, the first four donations are usually $50 each. Donation amounts and payments vary according to the donor's weight: 110 to 149 pounds, 150 to 174 pounds and 175 pounds and up. Generally, the first donation of the week ranges from $15 to $30, and the second donation ranges from $20 to $50. You can donate twice in a seven-day period with one day between donations, for example, on Monday and Wednesday. Your payment is loaded onto a prepaid debit card after the donation.