Plasma donations have made all the difference to Christina Moreau, who is raising a daughter while also building bridges between the worlds of the hearing and the deaf
Christina Moreau was engaged to be married and looking forward to starting a family when she was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness she’d never even heard of.
Immune thrombocytopenia (ITP) is a disorder which leads to abnormally low levels of blood cells called platelets, putting the patient at risk of severe bleeding. Christina’s early symptoms included extreme tiredness and bruising, but the first big sign of trouble arrived in the form of some blood test results. As soon as her doctor received them, he directed Christina straight to the hospital.
“The next few days I was surrounded by different professionals and doctors all coming in, trying to figure out what was going on,” says Christina, a 44-year-old teacher of American Sign Language (ASL) in St. Catharines, Ont. “I was in the hospital for a week.”
That episode nearly 13 years ago started Christina on what she calls the “roller-coaster” of life with ITP. She is so grateful that plasma donors have been along for the ride.
“I have so much passion and so many dreams. Because of plasma donations I’ve been able to say ‘Nope! Sorry illness. You’re not going to get me. I’m going to persevere.’”
-Christina Moreau, plasma recipient, sign language teacher
What is plasma and why is there a growing need for it?
Plasma is the protein-rich straw-coloured component of blood that makes up most of its volume. It's in soaring demand for the manufacture of medications called plasma protein products, which are used to treat immune deficiencies, bleeding disorders, devastating autoimmune disorders and more.
Christina relied on a plasma protein product called immunoglobulin for years, and could require it again in future.
“I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had to have that treatment,” she says.
ARE YOU ELIGIBLE TO DONATE PLASMA? Find out now
A single infusion of immunoglobulin may contain proteins from more than a thousand different donors. Some of those donors may have given whole blood, which we separate into components — including red blood cells, plasma and platelets. Others will have donated just plasma. That’s done through a process called plasmapheresis, where the red blood cells and other blood components are returned to the donor’s body during the donation.
Is donating plasma easy?
With plasmapheresis, some donors can donate as often as once a week, and provide as much as three times more plasma at each sitting than would be contained in a single donation of whole blood. That’s because our bodies are constantly making the components of plasma and can replace them quickly. For an experienced donor, the plasma donation process normally takes a little over an hour.
Plasma donors are absolutely vital to Canada’s Lifeline. We are welcoming more and more of them across Canada, including at our growing number of dedicated plasma donor centres. While 1 in 2 Canadians is eligible to donate blood, plasma or platelets, only 1 in 81 actually does. The need for new donors is higher than ever.
YOUR PLASMA DONATION CAN SAVE LIVES
The thousands of donors who have helped Christina over the years haven’t just made a difference. They’ve made all the difference: not only to her personally, but to her family, the students she inspires and more.
“I have so much passion and so many dreams,” says Christina. “Because of plasma donations, I’ve been able to say ‘Nope! Sorry, illness! You’re not going to get me. I’m going to persevere’.”
Pregnancy with ITP can be high-risk, but thanks to the support of both plasma donors and medical specialists, Christina and her husband, Paul, safely welcomed their daughter, Isabella, seven years ago.
Isabella is now growing up with a special perspective on the world. She is a hearing child of two deaf parents. And in her mother, who also navigates the challenges of a rare illness to lead a full, active life, she has a powerful role model for strength and resilience.
“I want to teach her that there’s always a solution to a problem,” Christina says. “Big problems, small problems, it doesn’t matter. And also that it’s O.K. to ask for help.”
Christina says she works to instill that same attitude in her students, as a teacher of American Sign Language at the post-secondary level. She describes education as her “life purpose,” which she combines with a passion for ASL in particular.
“I love working with people, and ASL is like a bridge between the hearing and deaf worlds,” Christina explains. “I get to bring those worlds together, and we can socialize together and work with each other. If I can teach ASL to people, it’s going to help them understand and build more relationships with the deaf community.”
Plasma donors: you make all the difference
Since her diagnosis, Christina has completed a second master’s degree, and is now considering a doctorate in the area of curriculum modelling for ASL instruction.
“I do not and will not allow ITP to stop me from pursuing my goals and dreams,” she says.
She’s so thankful to the plasma donors who have made it possible for her to both reach for the stars and enjoy the most down-to-earth pastimes.
“There are so many reasons for me to go on. I want to be successful in getting a PhD, and watch my daughter grow up. I want to see the changes that are happening around the world,” she says.
“I’ve even discovered that I have a green thumb for gardening. It was great to learn that I had that skill. My passion right now is succulent gardening.
“Why not try? Life is short!”
MORE WAYS DONORS MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE
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