A Journey of a Lifetime…looking for a Zebra
As Part of the Philoptochos Health Initiatives Month
Dear friends and spiritual family of Saint Spyridon,
Donating plasma, which is the part of the blood that contains water, salt, enzymes, antibodies and proteins is an empathetic act a donor extends to unknown people. I had no idea that people who donate are literally saving lives until I became one of those lives.
My journey with illness began more than 30 years ago. During my college years I was always getting sick and I had uncommon infections. I had the normal childhood chicken pox infection and most people become immune for life. I had this infection again my junior year of college. Throughout my 20s and early teaching career I battled more than my share of sinus, ear and upper respiratory infections. They were frequent and long lasting. I had pneumonia which lasted 6 weeks when I was 29 years old.
The infections became nearly unbearable in 2019. I was on antibiotics 15 times! Not knowing or understanding why I was prone to infections my primary care doctor persisted through this with me and referred me to an immunologist. In March of 2020, my health situation became clear when I was diagnosed with a rare primary immune deficiency. I have a condition known as Common Variable Immunodeficiency (CVID) which leaves me antibody deficient.
This means that I don’t have the normal protective immunity to viruses and bacteria. My immune system isn’t able to produce the normal protection which is built up through common infections as well as through immunizations.
The primary immune deficiencies include only 250,000 known people in the U.S. Within the 250,000 people there are over 400 different types of known PIs.
Enduring this unknown health condition for so many years has been a path to spiritual richness which I did not know awaited me. I began to seek Christ through weekly Holy Unction, not knowing or understanding what blessings He would have for me. Once a diagnosis came, I was able to receive treatment. There is no cure for CVID but each week I receive an infusion of Immune Globulin (IG) which comes from the plasma of donors. I now receive antibodies of others to help stave off infections.
I am dependent upon IG to keep me alive. The thought of health is beyond my comprehension. As I received Holy Unction and prayed to Christ for mercy, He bestowed upon me thousands of persons I will never know who have become a part of me. One batch of IG, diversely rich in antibodies, requires the plasma donations of 10,000 to 50,000 people. In addition, each patient is dependent upon 130 donations per year to fulfill their IG treatment. This treatment is necessary for the rest of our lives and is truly the gift of life.
During the pandemic there is an impending shortage of IG due to the decline in donations. This puts those of us who are dependent upon plasma donations at great risk of a shortage in our treatment.
Awareness of the need for plasma has become well know through the need for convalescent plasma from recovered COVID patients. This plasma treatment has provided COVID antibodies for the very sick and has saved lives.
Donation centers have very strict and safe guidelines for those who are willing to donate and provide this life saving gift. When plasma is donated most of your blood is returned to you after the plasma has been separated out and donors are able to donate up to two times per week. I am aware that most donation centers provide a stipend for time and travel. This can be kept by the donor or gifted to a charity of your choice or given back into the Immune Deficiency Foundation to continue to support the awareness and support of these rare disorders.
I am including some websites which further explain the donation process, where you can find a center, care of the donors, eligibility requirements, safety and quality standards, therapeutic use of plasma protein therapies, and more. If you have further questions or interest, please feel free to personally contact me.
I am grateful that you have taken the time to read this and hope that you are able to consider giving to this live saving treatment. The Immune Deficiency Foundation considers donators heroes and so do I!