(BPT) - Over the past year, you may have heard about convalescent plasma for the first time surrounding its potential use in treating COVID-19. However, for more than 80 years, plasma has been a lifeline for thousands of people who are immune-compromised and live with chronic and complex conditions like primary immune deficiency. The process of collecting donated plasma and transforming it into life-saving medicines continues to be essential, especially as more and more people need medicine developed from plasma. In response, BioLife Plasma Services, an industry leader in the collection of high-quality plasma donations, has expanded into Southern California to help address this urgent need. You can make a difference for people, like Julie, who depend on plasma.
Julie: The Long Road to Diagnosis
Julie, 44, lived a relatively healthy childhood — she was extremely active, and you could usually find her outdoors exploring, hiking or riding her bike. When Julie began training for marathons in her 20s, she was running 50 miles a week and felt sick almost every day. She chalked it up to her rigorous training schedule and her job at a cardiology office, but it escalated to the point where she couldn’t speak due to severe tonsillitis and was ultimately hospitalized. Julie recognized that life was no longer the same, despite her healthy lifestyle, as infection after infection began to take over her body, and she remained unsure of the cause. After multiple months of testing for an array of infections, Julie was becoming increasingly frustrated with how her life was being dictated by her health.
After eight years of doctor visits and searching for answers, Julie was finally diagnosed with primary immune deficiency. Primary immune deficiency, also known as PI, is a genetic condition in which a person is missing essential function of the immune system. While some people are born with symptoms of PI, some people may develop symptoms over their lifetime. In Julie’s case while her PI is complicated, she is missing the ability to build antibodies that protect a person from infections. A diagnosis can be difficult, but once identified, treatments are available for many types of PI, such as therapies developed from plasma.
The Basics: What is Plasma and its Purpose?
Plasma can be life-changing for those with PI and provides the antibodies Julie needs that cannot be produced in a lab. People who rely on continuous therapies developed from plasma are dependent on other people regularly donating their plasma. Depending on the condition, it can require hundreds to more than a thousand donations to provide adequate therapy for a single patient over the course of one year. It takes around 130 plasma donations to treat one patient with primary immune deficiency[i].
Currently, BioLife has four centers opened in the state of California with locations in Moreno Valley, Rialto, Corona and Riverside and more centers are slated to open later this year. All centers have taken a number of extra precautionary measures amid the pandemic to protect employees and donors, including extra cleaning processes and social distancing practices.
Looking Forward: How Southern Californians Can Help
Julie knows firsthand just how important therapies developed from plasma are for people like her as she’s been reliant on them for the last eight years. Julie is incredibly thankful for plasma donors’ commitment and has visited BioLife sites around the country expressing her gratitude.
Unable to share her thankfulness in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Julie has a message for donors around the world: “Thanks to plasma donors, I’m able to live the active life I always imagined. Plasma donations are life-changing for so many around the world, including myself. I encourage everyone to think of donating plasma. Your kind and generous donation can truly help change lives.”
Julie continues to not let her PI disorder define her, even during the pandemic with all the extra precautions Julie has had to take as an immunocompromised person to stay healthy. Now, with the emergence of new plasma donation centers in Southern California, donors have an opportunity to make a lasting impact and help Julie and others like her manage their condition by donating plasma. With the help of plasma therapies, Julie can live the life she imagined with her husband and stepson. As an avid traveler, once safe, Julie is looking forward to her next destination; maybe a beach, maybe a campsite, maybe a mountain, but Julie knows that she wouldn’t be able to embark on any adventure without plasma donors.
Learn more how you can play a role in helping save people’s lives through plasma donation at www.biolifeplasma.com, or download the BioLife App.