During International Plasma Awareness Week, October 11-17, three patients express how they really feel about people who donate their plasma, which is used to make lifesaving therapies.
October 9, 2015
By Sonya Williams
Janice can now do what she loves best, volunteer and travel around the world. Loyd is an U.S. Air Force veteran and currently teaches a high school class in leadership and character development. And Chelsee enjoys being outdoors doing Crossfit and nature photography. But it wasn’t always that way for these three, who have at least one thing in common – common variable immune deficiency (CVID). CVID is a rare medical disorder that can only be managed with therapies derived from human plasma. And the plasma that is used to make their therapies can only be obtained from people who are willing to donate their plasma.
Up until she was diagnosed 14 years ago at the age of 56, Janice’s life was filled with sickness, and her trips were limited to healthcare clinics and hospitals rather than around the world. “Over the years I suffered from chronic sinus infections, urinary tract infections, yeast infections and other health issues,” Janice says. “It was very discouraging, and I just couldn’t understand why I kept getting sick.”
That all changed when she began receiving intravenous immunoglobulin therapy every four weeks. For the first time, her life activities could easily be managed around the dates for my infusions. “The treatment enabled me to be infection-free and have a quality life. At an age when most people are slowing down, I am an active volunteer with four different agencies,” Janice said.
When she’s not traveling around the world to Europe, Central and South America, or preparing income tax returns for low-income folks, teaching a class to help the unemployed find a job or a number of other volunteer activities, Janice enjoys a busy social life with friends. “I am a 70-year-old woman who receives monthly intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) therapy. This therapy has changed my life. My treatments and my life today would not be possible without the generosity of plasma donors. Thank you for my life!”
Chelsee was also born with CVID and wasn’t diagnosed until well into her adult years in 2009. People with CVID are highly susceptible to infection and often develop recurring infections, particularly in the lungs, sinuses, and ears. There is no cure, and those who suffer with CVID depend on lifelong treatment.
“I receive plasma infusions every four weeks to replace the part of my blood that my body does not make,” Chelsee explains. Before I started getting the infusions, I was sick all the time. It took at least a 21-day course of very strong antibiotics to get rid of the infection. I would try not to be around anyone sick and avoided crowded places. It caused me to miss family gatherings and special occasions. Even simple things like shopping were a problem for me.”
Today Chelsee’s life is much different. Now she only gets sick once or twice a year. “Plasma donors truly gave me my life back!” she asserts. “I enjoy being outdoors, doing Crossfit and nature photography. She has a very special message to CSL Plasma donors, especially during International Plasma Awareness Week.
“I am so grateful and appreciative of the people who take time out of their busy lives to donate plasma!” she exclaims. “It is hard to express how thankful I am to have my life back. It would not be possible without plasma donors. I wish I could meet everyone in person and shake their hand or give them a hug to show my gratitude. Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
Loyd knew at an early age that something wasn’t right. “I was prone to infections all of my life,” Loyd says. “My first hospitalization with pneumonia was when I was 7. Back in those days, treatment was an oxygen tent and three penicillin shots a day, morning, noon, and night. I was just a little guy and those shots hurt.”
As the years progressed, Loyd remembers he was always fighting infections. “What would be just a scratch for most people would turn into an infection for me,” he says. “I joined the Air Force, got married and had a couple of kids, and I still got sick and had the occasional infection. When I turned 27, things got much worse.”
Loyd was hit with five bouts of pneumonia in a nine-month period before his doctors sent him to Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, where he learned that he had CVID. Loyd says his body does not produce the antibodies required to fight off infections. “In my case,” he adds, “I am susceptible to all infections, but primarily sino-pulmonary infections. I was told by medical professionals there was no a cure, but that it could be treated with immunoglobulin. That was 31 years ago.”
Today Loyd says he is healthier than he’s ever been in his life. He also says he was amazed when he learned that each treatment he receives, according to the Immune Deficiency Foundation, requires 450 donors, and 5,850 donors to supply him with his yearly requirement.
I get the chance to make a difference in the lives of the high school students I teach because of the plasma donors who continue to make a difference in my life. I want CSL Plasma donors to think about that the next time they walk in to make a donation. Thanks to all of you who take the time to donate plasma. Please keep donating and making that difference—for me and for others. We’re counting on you.”
Loyd has been a member of the CSL Plasma Adopt-A-Patient Program for several years and visits two CSL Plasma locations in Spokane, Washington regularly. He says that one of the things that make him proudest is that one of his former students has become a plasma center manager.
Sonya Williams is Sr. Manager, Corporate Communications and Community Relations at CSL Plasma