By Angie R. Lucarini
If you knew you could save thousands of lives, would you do it in a heartbeat? You may actually be among a select few — just 15% of the population — who can donate their plasma to save babies simply because you have Rh-negative blood. This is because plasma contains a substance that can prevent hemolytic disease (HDN) in a newborn, which occurs when an Rh-negative mother’s immune system produces antibodies that attach to the red blood cells of her Rh-positive fetus, resulting in severe illness or death of the newborn.
For over 35 years, KEDPLASMA Somerset Labs (KEDPLASMA) has been committed to eradicating HDN through screening and collecting plasma from Rh-negative donors, manufacturing it, and turning it into a life-saving therapy called RhoGAM which, when injected into a pregnant Rh-negative mom, prevents this deadly disease.
Over a 27-year period, one amazing donor from Buffalo has saved over 100 thousand infants from this terrible fate. Marilyn McCarthy recalls her husband Paul driving her twice a week to donate. However, she points to others she calls “Pioneers of Somerset” who consistently made these trips biweekly for 40 years.
Marilyn learned about this amazing donor program at KEDPLASMA from another woman she befriended while in the hospital following the birth of her own child. Having tragically endured the loss of several babies due to HDN, Marilyn became pregnant for a sixth time. However, that pregnancy was different, as she agreed to an experimental procedure which transfused the fetus inside the womb, replacing about 75 percent of its blood with healthy blood. The procedure was successful, and eight transfusions later, Marilyn gave birth to a healthy baby. Always wanting a large family, the McCarthys had three children of their own, became foster parents for 19 infants, and adopted three boys.
“I’m grateful that I was able to help so many. I hope more people will consider saving babies’ lives through donating their plasma. If I weren’t too old now, I’d still be giving,” says Marilyn.
So much has changed in over 30 years since KEDPLASMA began offering this miraculous gift of life, making it possible for Rh-negative women like Marilyn to have healthy families. If you are Rh-negative, you may be able to donate your plasma and receive compensation for your time and effort. Locally, donors must be between ages 18 and 68, have Rh-negative blood, be generally healthy, and reside within 90 miles of Williamsville, NY. Both men and women can donate, but women must be post-menopausal or surgically sterile. In just over an hour, donated plasma is replenished in the body more rapidly than blood cells, making it possible for a person to donate as frequently as twice weekly. Imagine, just donating once-a-week can save the lives of 40 babies!
If you meet the minimum requirements for donating plasma, call 716-631-1281, or email firstname.lastname@example.org to determine if you qualify to donate. Kedplasma Somerset Labs is located at 15 Limestone Drive, Williamsville, NY 14221. Learn more at www.kedplasma.us/somerset-laboratories.
Angie R. Lucarini is a freelance writer who resides in Niagara County.