Stories of Plasma Heroes

In medical terms, when we come across the word “donate,” the first thing that comes in our minds is whole blood donation. To the untrained and unfamiliar eye, it may seem as if full blood is being donated all the time. The truth is, most of the time, it is not.

Aside from whole blood donation, people also give blood components individually, such as platelets, red blood cells, white blood cells, and of course, plasma. In this article, we are going to focus more on the latter component, which is mainly what makes up blood itself.

 

PLASMA FACTS

First of all, what is this thing we call plasma?

Actually, the human blood is composed mostly of plasma, taking up 55% of it. It is a clear, pale yellow liquid that contains important antibodies, proteins, enzymes, and salts that are essential to the overall good health of the body.

Plasma regenerates faster than blood, so donors of this component are free to donate as often as twice a week— which is, of course, after they have gotten enough rest of about 48 hours.

 

IMPORTANCE OF PLASMA

Being a known component of blood, plasma is regarded for its importance and contribution to the medical field. The elements found in plasma are proven to have great benefits to people who are suffering from various illnesses or psychological damage.

Plasma protein therapies (PPTs) are great examples of how helpful plasma is. These therapies are developed from human genes, and can aid in several medical treatments, such as:

  • Burn, shock or trauma (human serum albumin)
  • Hepatitis, rabies/tetanus, fetal complications (hyperimmune globulin)
  • Blood clotting
  • Hemophilia
  • Antithrombin deficiency

 

PLASMA DONATION LIMITS

Donating plasma sounds like— and totally is— a good thing. More people should consider giving some of their plasma to those who truly need it.

But, as much as hospitals and blood banks want more plasma, there are still limitations as to who should donate plasma… and who should not.

Also, the volume of plasma to be donated should also be monitored. Even though plasma rebuilds inside the body quickly, the amount to be given should still be controlled.

Donor limitations

The age limit for potential blood donors is 17 years old (minimum) and 69 years old (maximum), though it varies in some states and countries. In other areas, there is no maximum age limit for plasma donors and 16 year-old teenagers are allowed to donate— as long as they have a parental consent.

The donor’s weight is also important in plasma donation. The limit is 110 pounds (minimum), and this is the general weight rule in most places.

Other limitations include those concerning unfit lifestyle (tattoos, piercings, etc.), medical history, travel history, and current health state.

Plasma limitations

While it will be good to the society to have abundance in the supply of plasma, there are still some limitations to donating this blood component.

First of all, donors should not give plasma more than two times a week— especially for frequent plasmapheresis, or the process of separating plasma from the blood. There should also be a 48-hour interval between donations, which means that you cannot donate for two consecutive days. This adds up to a total of 104 plasma donations in a year.

There is also a maximum limit as to how much plasma a donor can give. According to the US Food and Drug Administration or FDA, the collection volume of donated plasma varies, depending on the donor’s weight.

Here is a more specific basis, with the anticoagulant volume included in the total collection volume of each weight:

  • 10-149 pounds -> 625 mL (plasma volume) -> 690 mL (collection volume)
  • 150-174 pounds -> 750 mL (plasma volume) -> 825 mL (collection volume)
  • 175 pounds and above -> 800 mL (plasma volume) -> 880 mL (collection volume)

 

PLASMA HERO STORIES

Despite of all the safety measures that hospitals and blood banks implement to carefully select who among the world’s population can donate plasma, there are still many kindred spirits who pass the tests and screenings.

The best part is, there are people who go out of their ways to prove that they can be heroes on their own rights. These are the people who exceed expectations— and plasma donation count.

Richard Burke

On June 2004, Burke set a new record when he donated his 1,411th unit of blood and made his 1,193rd blood donation.

Burke started donating in 1975, and since then, he has been doing apheresis— which is the process of separating certain components of the blood from itself.

He still holds the title until now, with an equivalent of 634.95 liters of blood donated.

James Harrison

Dubbed as the “man with a golden arm,” Harrison has been donating plasma since he was 18 years old. Now in his late seventies, he is still giving his lifesaving plasma to people who need it the most.

As a result, he had achieved a new milestone— on May 2011, he made his 1,000th donation.

That is not the only thing Harrison— and the whole world— can be proud of. Since his first donation in 1955, he has been giving a rare tonic of blood plasma that was eventually used to create and develop a vaccine. This is now known (and sold) as Rho(D) immune globulin, which has saved more than 2 million newborn babies’ lives.

Rho(D) immune globulin is a real lifesaving vaccine, but it is only efficient when prepared with blood from a donor who has rare antibodies in plasma, like Harrison. Because of this, he can still be seen donating blood every seven to ten days.

Peter Ray

An Australian war veteran, Ray just made his 800th blood donation on August 2012.

He started donating blood when he was just a 16 year-old apprentice in the Navy, and every two weeks, he donates plasma at Perth Blood Donor Centre.

Adding to his achievements is the fact that Ray is one of the 36 West Australian donors whose plasma is used to create Anti-D, which is a very special product that aids in preventing a disease known to newborn babies as Haemolytic Disease.

Terry George Price

A security guard from Denton, Texas, Price’s eyes are set on winning the Guinness World Records title for blood donation-aphaeresis.

Sixty years old and still going, Price has been donating to BioLife Plasma for a long time.  He has donated 1,000 times since his first time on May 2001, and has given 887.73 liters of plasma. While admitting that he is doing it for the money, he said that he stayed loyal because he is helping other people, as well.

 

BECOME A PLASMA HERO

Like the plasma heroes mentioned in this article— and many more— you, too, can become a one-of-a-kind hero.

Donate your plasma and make a difference!

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