He was diagnosed early, giving him an excellent chance of survival with treatment. But he was still vulnerable, even after a bone marrow transplant from his father, which partially strengthened his immune system.
You wouldn’t know it by looking at Ismaeel today. He is thriving on biweekly infusions of a life-saving drug of infection-fighting antibodies made from blood plasma donated by strangers.
“He’s the comedian of the class,” Javeria says of the golf-obsessed seven-year-old who goes to school with his friends in Merrylands, Sydney’s west.
“Without the infusions, I couldn’t live a normal life. We would be locked up again.”
Demand for blood plasma is at record levels, prompting an urgent call for an additional 200 plasma donors every day in October to treat the tens of thousands of Australians whose lives depend on it.
The Australian Red Cross Lifeblood’s blood plasma pools are primarily maintained by just 30,000 donors, despite the fact that more than 10 million people are eligible to donate.
Lifeblood CEO Stephen Cornelissen said thousands more donors are needed to meet growing demand driven by improvements in diagnostics.
Doctors are finding more uses for blood plasma in a growing variety of acute and chronic medical conditions, including cancer, immune disorders, hemophilia, kidney disease and trauma patients, Cornelissen said.
During the last two and a half years of the pandemic, donors were encouraged to donate whole blood to help meet the highest demand for red blood cells in nearly a decade, but that came at the cost of donating plasma.
Global demand for plasma is increasing by about 10 per cent each year, and Australia is among the top three per capita plasma drug users in the world to treat more than 50 medical conditions.
“Plasma is a valuable global health resource, containing dozens of antibodies and proteins that we cannot replicate inside a laboratory. It really is magical: a natural resource that saves lives,” said Cornelissen.
Just one of these medicines, immunoglobulin (Ig), is essential to the more than 13,300 Australians who need it every month to treat their acute or chronic conditions,” said Stuart Chesneau, who oversees Lifeblood’s plasma programme.
All Australians who have received tetanus or chicken pox injections after exposure, or pregnant women who have received Anti-D injections, have benefited from plasma donations, Chesneau said.
But it can take up to 13 plasma donations to make a single dose of some plasma drugs.
Lifeblood and Immune Deficiencies Foundation Australia is launching International Plasma Awareness Week from October 3-7.
The executive director of the Immune Deficiencies Foundation Australia, Carolyn Dews, said that thousands of people with immunodeficiencies depend on the generosity of plasma donors.
“Plasma gives them protection, as it contains disease-fighting antibodies that help protect against a variety of infections,” Dews said.
There are three types of blood donations: whole blood, plasma, and platelets.
Whole blood donation
This is the fastest and easiest way to donate blood. Once blood is drawn from the arm, it is usually separated in the laboratory into red blood cells, plasma, and platelets.
It takes 10 minutes to donate 470 ml (about 8 percent of the average blood volume of an adult). You can donate whole blood every 12 weeks.
The plasma donation process is called ‘apheresis’. This is a special machine that uses centrifugal force to separate the blood drawn from your arm into plasma (which is yellow in color) and your red blood cells. You can see this happening in the apheresis machine while you are donating, and your red blood cells are returned to your body during the same appointment.
Donating plasma instead of whole blood means twice as much plasma is collected (more than half of your blood is plasma), and you can donate more often (every two weeks).
It takes between 45 minutes and 1.5 hours to donate.
Platelets are small cell fragments that are made in the bone marrow. They only last seven days after donation. Platelets clump together to stop bleeding, seal wounds, and help plug leaks in damaged blood vessels.
It takes an hour to donate and about two hours for the entire appointment. You must be male and have previously donated plasma to donate platelets.