Nurse to patient and back again
As a nurse at the Waikato Hospital, Stephanie Larder spends her days seeing patients in the general medicine ward, caring for their every need. Busy juggling her work while also studying as part of a Nursing (Honours) programme, it is hard to imagine this bubbly young woman is anything but healthy.
However, every three weeks the 23 year old heads up to the haematology ward to become a patient herself. There, Stephanie receives a transfusion of Intragam® P, a plasma-derived product that is used to treat people with immune deficiencies.
Stephanie was in her third year of her nursing degree at Waikato Institute of Technology when she was diagnosed with Common Variable Immune Deficiency (CVID), a disorder that means she has a low level of antibodies leaving her body unable to fight infections.
After years of unexplained illness - colds that she couldn’t kick, chest infections that led to pneumonia, joint aches and constant fatigue – Stephanie says it was a relief to have a diagnosis.
“We ruled out lots of different illnesses before I was finally diagnosed with CVID. I started having transfusions of Intragam® P and the difference in me has been huge. Now I hardly ever get sick, and if I do it is nowhere near as bad as it once was.”
Intragam® P is one of thirteen products made from plasma donated by Kiwis to New Zealand Blood Service. It is made up of donations from a large pool of plasma donors ensuring there is a broad-spectrum of antibodies to help the recipient fight a wider range of infections and live a relatively normal life.
As well as fighting primary immunodeficiency diseases like Stephanie’s, Intragam® P is also used to treat several other conditions. Those at risk of infection because of a low immune system caused by disease or treatments such as chemotherapy sometimes need Intragam® P treatment, too. It is also used as disease-controlling (or immunomodulating) therapy for those with auto-immune diseases where the body’s immune system attacks itself, like Guillain-Barré syndrome. Intragam® P is also used to treat ‘mystery’ conditions where we don’t know the cause, like Kawasaki disease, which affects children’s arteries. Medical trials showed the treatment worked and it is now the standard treatment around the world for this condition.
Stephanie is hugely grateful to blood and plasma donors for the commitment they show to helping people in need.
“It is such an amazing gift to give people. Plasma and blood products have so many uses, some of which I see in my job as a nurse, and some I have experienced myself. You are never going to see the extent of the good that it does, but for me it is an essential part of my life. I am proof of the major difference that plasma donations can make to people’s lives.”
Like many others, Stephanie will continue to receive life changing Intragam® P to treat her disorder for the rest of her life, making the role of plasma donors essential.