The Hidden Heroes of Blood Donations

Written by Ronny Bachrach

As National Blood Donor Month comes to a close, I want to share information about different types of blood products that people can receive and one in particular that my daughter receives regularly.

When most people think about donating blood, they think about donating whole red blood cells for packed red blood cell transfusions given to trauma, surgical, and oncology patients. However, there are different types of donations that create different types of blood products that patients receive.

After packed red blood transfusions, platelets, plasma, and cryoprecipitate are the most frequently transfused blood products. A fourth less common blood product is Intravenous Immune Globulin (IVIG). It’s made from the plasma of thousands of healthy donors and is used to treat immune deficiencies as well as inflammation. It can also be used to treat low platelets and a number of immune-related conditions.

My daughter Sam has Systemic Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (SJIA) and Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD). She receives an IVIG transfusion once a month to not only address inflammation in her body, specifically in her lungs, but also for the protection healthy donors’ antibodies provide.

SJIA makes Sam’s immune system hyper-reactive to stimuli, so she takes a number of immune-suppressing medications to keep it in check. Sadly, this also means that she cannot get vaccinations and is highly dependent on generous, healthy plasma donors to be up-to-date on all of theirs, including COVID and Flu.

She receives IVIG every month to help give her fresh antibodies that could help her fend off or better cope with any infections, in addition to helping with her lung disease. Before starting IVIG treatment, her pulmonologist described IVIG as her “desert island drug of choice” because of how many benefits it has to patients. Her rheumatologist explained that while it’s challenging to eloquently elaborate on how IVIG addresses inflammation, it can relieve systemic inflammation and that she loves it to treat multiple autoimmune and autoinflammatory diseases.

So, as we shine the spotlight on the importance of blood donations, it’s helpful to understand how large the spectrum of patients your donation can benefit. We normally only think about trauma, surgical, and oncology patients requiring red blood cell transfusions. Still, this group, and so many more, rely on the other blood products from blood donations, a generous gift of life.

Contact us with any further questions about donating blood, or for support finding donation sites.