Record high demand for plasma prompts call for more donors
Australia’s need for donated plasma is continuing to soar, with more than 6,200 life-changing plasma medications and transfusions sent to hospitals nationwide every day.
To help meet the ever-increasing need, Australian Red Cross Lifeblood is calling for 1,500 people every day to donate plasma this month.
The call coincides with International Plasma Awareness Week (October 2-6) and comes as Lifeblood announces Olympic swimmer Michael Klim as an ambassador. The swimming champion lives with a rare neurological disorder, Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (CIDP), which can cause chronic pain, loss of sensation and weakness of the limbs, and difficulty moving.
While there is no cure, symptoms can be managed, and his quality of life improved by infusions of Intravenous Immunoglobulin (IVIg), which is made from human plasma. It can take up to 32 donations to make a single IVIg treatment that is needed every six weeks.
Lifeblood’s Executive Director of Strategy and Growth, Stuart Chesneau said an increase in demand for IVIg, which has been growing at around 8 per cent each year over the past 5 years, has been one of the biggest drivers of plasma demand in Australia.
“People living with neurological conditions like CIDP are now the biggest users of IVIg in Australia, but medical research and innovation are finding new and important uses for plasma treatments all the time. We have some of the most generous voluntary plasma donors in the world and despite Australians donating more plasma than ever before, there are growing numbers of people who need it to be able to have a quality of life many of us take for granted. This means we need thousands more plasma donors to support them,” he said.
In becoming an ambassador for Lifeblood, Olympian Michael Klim said he jumped at the opportunity to raise awareness of just how critical plasma is to thousands of Australians like himself.
“Unless you have been in a situation like mine, you can’t fully appreciate the demand that exists for plasma and the change it can create for patients. It is an amazing product” he said.
“Since starting the IVIg treatments, I’ve seen my symptoms plateau. I was going downhill really quickly. With the plasma, we were able to stop that degradation. Together with lifestyle choices and changes and now these treatments, I am feeling very stable.
Klim said the ambassador role was also an opportunity to thank Australia’s plasma donors.
“The generosity of Australians is tremendous. Without it, people like me, wouldn’t be functioning the way we do and it helps us maintain a pretty normal lifestyle. It gives us hope – so it plays a huge role in our lives,” he said.
Check your eligibility to donate. New and existing donors are welcome. Book a blood or plasma donation online, by calling 13 14 95 or by downloading the Donate Blood app.
Daily plasma appointments still needed in October
Plasma – The Facts
• Plasma contains antibodies, the body’s own little “ninja warriors”, that helps us fight infections and diseases.
• Plasma has now overtaken blood donations as the type of donation most needed by patients and hospitals in Australia.
• Plasma-derived medicines are used to treat more than 50 serious medical conditions.
• It is used in hospitals across Australia every day to treat trauma and bleeding, but it's also used to make life-saving medicine for patients with auto-immune diseases, cancer, haemophilia, kidney conditions and burns.
• In addition to the large number of medical conditions, plasma is also used to treat every Australian who has had a post-exposure tetanus injection or chicken pox injection.
• Every pregnant woman who receives an Anti-D injection is also a plasma recipient.
• Donating plasma is a lot like donating blood, and just as rewarding. The process is called ‘apheresis’, whereby a special machine draws blood from your arm and separates the blood out to collect the plasma, which is yellow in colour, while the remainder of the blood is returned to your body.
• Donating plasma means you give twice as much plasma as you would in a normal blood donation. And you can donate more often – as frequently as every two weeks. If you’re a whole blood donor, you can give plasma four weeks after your blood donation.