4 October 2023

Wollongong 'Plasma Party' unites life-saving blood donors with locals receiving vital treatments

| Keeli Royle
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Susan Edwards and Lifeblood Wollongong worker cutting cake.

Plasma recipient Susan Edwards (left) celebrated International Plasma Awareness Week with the Lifeblood and IDFA teams at Wollongong’s donor centre. Photos: Keeli Royle.

It’s a liquid gold that’s completely free to give – and for thousands of Australians with immunodeficiencies, plasma donations are vital to live a full and healthy life.

Now, locals who rely on their donations have had the chance to meet generous donors face to face to celebrate their contribution and kindness.

READ ALSO Dapto grandfather’s platelets prove to be the perfect match for newborns in need

Susan Edwards started struggling with her health in her mid to late 20s.

The Nowra mum noticed she was susceptible to a lot of infections, and as the years went on her condition continued to deteriorate.

“I was hospitalised with a grumbling appendix and then had to have it removed, I went to the ICU for a week with pneumonia, I was on a ventilator and then just lots of chest infections and illness culminating during 2020, when I had pneumonia for most the year,” Susan explained.

“It was hard to see doctors when you’re coughing and I just wasn’t getting better so I was hospitalised again.”

Eventually, Susan sought another opinion and was referred to an immunologist, who broke the news to her that she had practically no antibodies.

But once she started treatment, things changed drastically.

“I started to having immunoglobulin replacements once a month, it takes three and a half to four hours each time, but within maybe six months, I didn’t get sick anymore.”

And it doesn’t just keep her out of hospital: Susan is able to participate in everyday activities without the worry that one event could wipe her out for weeks.

“I have normal levels of energy, and apart from having to sit in a chair one day a month, I’m really healthy,” she said. “It allows me to teach, it allows me to do all the things I need to do as a mum.”

“It’s so freeing, and especially now the pandemic is almost done and dusted, being able to go to a theatre, go to Sydney, go on a train and not be constantly stressed out that I’m going to be really sick.”

Yellow cake with Plasma Party on it.

IDFA and Lifeblood held a Plasma Party at the Wollongong donor centre so recipients like Susan could meet the donors who helped them.

Around 13,300 Australians like Susan require the plasma-derived medication immunoglobin to manage acute or chronic conditions, but approximately 130 plasma donations are needed to help treat one person with a primary immunodeficiency for just one year.

Now the Immune Deficiencies Foundation Australia (IDFA) has teamed up with Lifeblood during International Plasma Awareness Week to highlight the important need for donations by hosting a ‘Plasma Party’ in Wollongong to connect donors and recipients.

“A lot of the donors don’t ever see who their plasma goes to,” IDFA CEO Carolyn Dews said.

“So part of the idea of our event is to bring some of our members into the centre and to get them to talk to donors so people can see that real-life person who is benefitting from them coming in to give plasma every couple of weeks.

“We hope to really promote that story a lot more so we encourage more donors to come in on a regular basis.”

Amanda Thompson donating plasma at Wollongong Lifeblood donor centre.

Amanda’s donation helps save lives and support people with immunodeficiencies.

Thankfully, plasma donation is a simple process that can be done every fortnight.

Donor Amanda Thompson has been donating sporadically for years but has now become a regular plasma donor at the Wollongong centre.

“I like to donate because it’s something that I can do to help people, it doesn’t take much time out of my day,” she said.

“I give plasma because I’m a B-positive blood type so my plasma can get to more people and help more people rather than just my whole blood.”

READ ALSO The lifeblood of the Illawarra roll up their sleeves and celebrate National Blood Donor Week

Amanda has now donated 92 times and continues to be driven by the impact she can make.

“It’s really good to hear that something that doesn’t take long for you to do can help so many people,” she said.

Plasma donations are used in 18 different ways, from saving babies to making transplants and surgeries safer.

“It makes a huge difference to people’s lives,” Susan said. “So any donation that you can make is really really appreciated.”

To find out about plasma and blood donation visit the Lifeblood website.

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