Peru boy goes without treatment due to nationwide plasma shortage

PERU, Ind. – Indiana doctors believe a nationwide plasma shortage could put patients at risk of getting sick. Right now, Riley Hospital for Children is rationing its supply, which is leaving some kids without this life-saving therapy.

Hayes is 11 years old and his mom, Vicki Bowman, said he was diagnosed with a rare immune disorder called hypogammaglobulinemia as a toddler. His body cannot make enough antibodies. That means it is easier for Hayes to get sick. Bowman said he was constantly in the hospital before his diagnosis.

"Every other day or we were living at Riley for weeks on end because he was sick all the time," she said.

For eight years, he's been going to Riley for a special infusion of antibodies every 28 days. It's called IVIG and it comes from plasma donations. Each appointment for an infusion takes about six hours.

Last week, Bowman said his doctor called them and said Hayes could not get it this time because of a shortage.

"I went back to those years when we were sick all the time. We had no life," Bowman said.

Dr. Robert Nelson is not Hayes' oncologist at Riley Hospital but he said he is also forced to ration this life-saving therapy at the hospital.

"I'm worried. I am concerned," he said.

He said these special infusions decrease hospitalizations and increase a person's quality of life. Dr. Nelson said he has never seen a shortage like this since he started his residency nearly 40 years ago.

"The extent and the duration of this shortage is going to be important to our patients," he said. "I don’t have a clear view of what exactly the duration of this shortage is going to be like."

He said they are making adjustments in their dosing and stretching out intervals between these infusions. They are prepared to treat infections that become more severe.

"We prioritize according to the severity of the illness the child has and the availability of other treatments," he said.

Dr. Nelson suggests going to the Red Cross to help these patients. A spokesperson for the organization said at most locations, the plasma is extracted from the whole blood donation.

You can also visit other blood donation centers, like BioLife Plasma Services.

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