Australia’s need for donated plasma is continuing to soar, with more than 6,200 medications and transfusions sent to hospitals nationwide every day.
To help meet the ever-increasing need, Australian Red Cross Lifeblood is calling for 1,500 people every day to donate plasma this month.
Around 280 appointments need to be filled at the Bundaberg Donor Centre before the end of October.
The call coincides with International Plasma Awareness Week (Oct 2-6) and comes as Lifeblood announces Olympic swimmer Michael Klim as an ambassador. The swimming champion lives with a rare neurological disorder, Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (CIDP), which can cause chronic pain, loss of sensation and weakness of the limbs, and difficulty moving.
While there is no cure, symptoms can be managed, and his quality of life improved by infusions of Intravenous Immunoglobulin (IVIg), which is made from human plasma. It can take up to 32 donations to make a single IVIg treatment that is needed every six weeks.
Lifeblood’s Stuart Chesneau says an increase in demand for IVIg, which has been growing at around 8 per cent each year over the past 5 years, has been one of the biggest drivers of plasma demand in Australia.
“People living with neurological conditions like CIDP are now the biggest users of IVIg in Australia, but medical research and innovation are finding new and important uses for plasma treatments all the time. We have some of the most generous voluntary plasma donors in the world and despite Australians donating more plasma than ever before, there are growing numbers of people who need it to be able to have a quality of life many of us take for granted. This means we need thousands more plasma donors to support them,” he says.
In becoming an ambassador for Lifeblood, Olympian Michael Klim says he jumped at the opportunity to raise awareness of just how critical plasma is to thousands of Australians like himself.
“Unless you have been in a situation like mine, you can’t fully appreciate the demand that exists for plasma and the change it can create for patients. It is an amazing product” he says.
“Since starting the IVIg treatments, I’ve seen my symptoms plateau. I was going downhill really quickly. With the plasma, we were able to stop that degradation. Together with lifestyle choices and changes and now these treatments, I am feeling very stable.”