Donate Plasma and Save a Life: Mine

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by Shawna Barnes |

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It’s the last Monday of June. The last Monday of National Myasthenia Gravis Awareness Month.

Last week, I shared some tips for both myasthenics and our friends and family on how you can continue to turn awareness into action long after this month is over. As the month ends and y’all get inundated with myasthenia gravis (MG) info, I want to share a way that you can make a lasting, lifesaving impact.

No, really, I mean it. I’m not being overdramatic. Life. Saving.

Find your local plasma center and donate plasma. It’s really that simple. Donating blood and donating plasma are two different types of donations, of which there are several. The Red Cross does a great job of breaking them down.

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What is plasma donation?

Plasma donation is the one that matters to people like me with MG. I’ve talked about getting intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) as an MG treatment before. It takes thousands of plasma donations to make this medicine.

Plasma is removed from a healthy body and filtered through a dialysis machine; then the red blood cells are put back into the donor. Most plasma donation centers pay the donor, as well.

Plasma to IVIG

When I am in a symptom exacerbation, my care team would turn to emergent use of IVIG, where I would get a large dose over several days. This year, we started using this treatment as part of my regular plan to avoid the highs and lows I’d been experiencing. For six months now, I’ve been getting IVIG infusions every three to four weeks.

What a difference regular treatment has made in improving my quality of life! I am no longer bound to a bed or recliner, and I’m finally bouncing back from the general decline I’d been experiencing before getting sick with COVID-19.

These regular treatments have kept me from a severe symptom flare or exacerbation. IVIG, in combination with my other medications, has kept me from slipping into respiratory failure (considered a “myasthenia gravis crisis”) and resulting stay in an intensive care unit. The treatment has literally saved my physical and mental health.

Let’s be real; living with a chronic illness that can literally suck the energy and life right out of you can be a mental roller coaster, and it’s hard not to let that take over.

Awareness to action

With your donation, I can be more active and continue to be a voice for others who may not be comfortable or able to speak up. By telling others about my lived experience, my action continues to promote change in other tangible ways, like showing how much this treatment improves my quality of life so that it can someday be an accepted, normal treatment.

Right now, IVIG infusions are considered off-label treatment for people with seronegative myasthenia gravis, like me. If I didn’t have Veterans Affairs medical care, I would be like my peers and have to fight every month for this treatment by justifying its benefits and need.

It takes people like you, reading this and wanting to help others, to turn awareness into action. Finding a plasma donation center and donating plasma has a direct impact on the quality of life of those around you. Your action literally saves lives like mine.

Myasthenia Gravis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Myasthenia Gravis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to myasthenia gravis.


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