For many of us, coming down with an infection is not a life-threatening event. Doctors typically prescribe a round of antibiotics or an over-the-counter regimen, and patients are able to recover and move on with their lives. For Primary Immunodeficiency (PI) patients like Chelsee Self, the ability to heal depends on blood donors.
PI is a rare genetic disease that causes frequent, recurrent bacterial infections that are slow to respond to treatment and never seem to fully subside. PI has changed Chelsee’s life in many ways – from her monthly plasma transfusions to the efforts she makes in her community to raise awareness of the disease.
“I am one of the ‘well sick’ people,” Chelsee said. “As long as I feel good, I’m going to advocate for those who can’t.”
Since she was diagnosed in 2009, plasma transfusions have helped Chelsee live a normal life and build up her body’s natural immunity. Today, she doesn’t have to worry as much about getting sick, which means she’s able to spend more time with her friends, family and community. For her, plasma therapy is peace of mind.
There is an ongoing and indefinite need for plasma donations for PI patients like Chelsee. Because most people don’t realize the need and the many uses for plasma, her focus is on raising awareness of PI as well as the importance of giving plasma.
Chelsee said most doctors will only see one patient with PI in their entire career. While a simple blood test is all that’s required for diagnosis, PI is exceptionally rare and can look like so many other conditions. People often live with the disease for years unknowingly. Chelsee is acquainted with patients who struggled with symptoms for eight or nine years before becoming correctly diagnosed and treated. She believes that her symptoms began as a child, when she had frequent pneumonia infections.
Chelsee’s mother also has PI, and brings others with the disease together to form another kind of family. Her mother hosts a peer group called Get Connected that unites PI patients in her community to talk and learn from each other and offer a helping hand when needed. Being involved in the Get Connected group has changed Chelsee’s life and given her a direction.
“I’m not just focused on ‘poor me, I’m sick.’ I am able to concentrate on other things in life other than this sickness.”
On November 11, Chelsee is hosting the 4th Annual Walk for PI in Addison with the Immune Deficiency Foundation. The walk is an opportunity for her and others in her community to raise awareness for PI and the importance of donating plasma.
We encourage our donors to help patients in our community like Chelsee. Visit a Carter BloodCare donor center or click here to read more about plasma donations. To learn more about PI and sign up to join the Walk for PI, click here.