By Carla Schick
Artist, poet and writer Khalil Gibran wrote: “You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”
As patients living with immune globulin (IG)-mediated conditions, you are generally the first to acknowledge the amazing gift that you receive each time you are infused with IG. This life-giving product that enters your body, providing you the ability to do things like walk, drive your children to school and play an instrument, came from the arm of a generous plasma donor.
Melissa Saltzman, Jerry Bigelow, Raymond Guillory and Gordon Buffington are just four of the thousands of willing people who truly give of themselves each day. Let’s take a few moments to explore their stories of giving.
Thirty-year-old Melissa Saltzman was born with bilateral retinoblastoma, a rare cancer that develops in the retina that rendered her blind from birth. Despite her lack of vision, Melissa vowed to live her life with enthusiasm and conviction. She says that her goal and passion is “to love and serve others in her community.” One way that Melissa does this is by donating plasma at her local collection center. She learned about plasma donation from a friend and wasn’t sure what to expect. But within a week, she was rolling up her sleeve and donating her plasma to people in need.
Jerry Bigelow, a 38-year-old single father of four, has had his own experiences with lifesaving plasma treatments. When Hurricane Andrew hit Florida in 1992, Jerry was taking shelter in his family’s garage when a gas can fell over. Then the worst happened: It spilled on him and ignited. Throughout his weeklong visit at the Miami Burn Center, Jerry received plasma products to help him recover from his second-degree burns.
In 2002, Jerry once again realized the lifesaving-power of plasma therapy when all four of his small children were severely burned in a car accident. One son received second-degree burns to 11 percent of his body. Another son sustained second- and third-degree burns to 39 percent of his body. His third young boy received third-degree burns to 50 percent of his body. And his youngest child sustained third-degree burns to over 69 percent of his little body. All of his boys were treated with plasma therapies at the Shriner’s Burn Unit in Galveston, Texas. Happily, all four of Jerry’s sons are doing very well.
Since the late 1960s, close friends Raymond Guillory and Gordon Buffington have been driving down to their local collection centers to donate their anti-D special brand of immune globulin. Raymond first began to donate plasma when the blood center he had recently visited informed him that he was identified as having a red cell antibody called anti-D. The staff told him that his particular form of plasma was needed to manufacture a vaccine that would help save the lives of newborn babies. After checking with his doctor to see if the plasmapheresis procedure was safe, he readily agreed to begin donating twice a week.
It was during one of his donations that Raymond met and became good friends with Gordon, a fellow donor who was also labeled as a prime candidate for his anti-D-rich plasma. When asked why he chooses to donate, Raymond says: “To help better humanity.” Gordon expressed similar sentiments when asked why he continues to give his plasma, despite his advanced age: “Because of the need.” Both gentlemen have the same goal in mind: to dedicate their lives to helping their fellow humans deal successfully with their illnesses.
Thank you, plasma donors. We tip our hats to you. Without your necessary and unselfish sacrifices, many of the lives you touch would not be lives at all without your generous donations.
To read more about the donors mentioned in this blog, please visit www.donatingplasma.org/donation/what-is-plasma.
What would you like to say to plasma donors?