Plasma for Life: The Critical Need for Donors
Thanks to community support, blood donation drives are common and convenient. Those willing to donate a pint of their blood need go no farther than their school, church, workplace, or local business. What’s not so common are plasma donations, which may take a little longer than blood donations but are equally important in helping to fulfill a vital medical need.
Since being diagnosed with a primary immunodeficiency disease nearly 20 years ago, I’ve relied on immune globulin (Ig) treatments which are manufactured from human plasma. Without this critical resource, I would very likely suffer multiple and persistent serious infections which could ultimately be fatal.
I was 24 when I received this diagnosis – not long out of college and just beginning my career in Houston, Texas, where I still live. A rare disease diagnosis was not in my plan. Yet I now know that one in 10 Americans are currently living with a rare disease. Primary immunodeficiency disease is just one of 7,000 diseases considered rare in the U.S., meaning it affects fewer than 200,000 Americans at any given time.
Like many people that age, I felt mentally and physically strong and full of hope for my future. Now, after nearly two decades of living with a rare disease, I’m happy to say I still feel that way. Thanks to members of my medical team at Texas Children’s Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine, I have the care I need to live a full and active life. And thanks to Accredo’s specialty pharmacy, I receive my medication when and where I need it.
My medication comes with supplies needed for my infusions, which include an ambulatory infusion pump. The pump is about the size of my hand and allows me to maintain infusions on the go. I’m proud to say that my infusion pump has seen the world – more than 20 countries and 4 continents, so far. My husband and I love to travel, and the pump allows me to infuse in far-off places as easily as in my workplace or home.
Growing Need for Plasma
Because Ig is a versatile drug, used to treat a variety of life-threatening conditions, the demand continues to grow and currently there is an acute shortage. Many patients are experiencing difficulty receiving their medication and are being forced to prolong the period of time between treatments, receive reduced dosing, or seek other less effective medications. This puts patients in a vulnerable position, facing increased health risks, including pain, organ damage, and debilitating infections.
From One Human to Another
Most of our blood, approximately 55%, is plasma, and it contains water, salts, enzymes, antibodies and other proteins. It carries out a variety of functions in the body, including clotting blood, fighting diseases, and other critical functions.
While whole blood blood is frequently given to trauma patients and people undergoing surgery.is typically given to trauma patients and people undergoing surgery, source plasma is plasma that is collected from healthy, voluntary donors through a process called plasmapheresis and is used exclusively for further manufacturing into final therapies, including Ig. The donation process takes about 90 minutes and truly is a gift of life.
Although not nearly as numerous as blood banks, plasma donation centers are located across the country. I’ve been fortunate to visit a few and meet with those who take time out of their schedule to donate. It’s a wonderful opportunity for me to say thank you. Donating plasma is a unique human-to-human connection that truly enables people to share their good health with others.
Healthy plasma donations come from healthy donors, and donors who commit to repeated donations are essential for the manufacture of life-saving therapies. But according to data studied by the Plasma Protein Therapeutics Association, 76% of plasma donors had been donating for two years or less, indicating a significant need – and opportunity -- to recruit new and repeat donors.
Source plasma used to manufacture therapies is not an infinite resource and donated human plasma can’t be made in a lab. I’m grateful for all the healthy, committed individuals who donate plasma and allow me to live a happy, active life. Please consider becoming a donor and sharing your plasma with others like me.
For more information on donating plasma and to find a donation center near you, go to http://www.donatingplasma.org/