Isaac Walker donates plasma after son's Kawasaki diagnosis

As a parent, one of the scariest things that can happen is having a sick child. For Isaac Walker and his wife Sue, that is what happened to their son, Josh.

In 2019, Josh was diagnosed with Kawasaki disease, which causes swelling and redness in children throughout their body and is most common in kids under five years of age. The symptoms stem from inflammation in the walls of small to medium-sized blood vessels that carry blood throughout the body. Kawasaki disease can also cause inflammation of the coronary arteries, which supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart. 

Kawasaki disease is treatable, and most children recover without serious problems if they receive treatment within ten days of onset. If they do not receive treatment within that time period, their chance of lasting damage to the heart greatly increases., This damage can include an aneurysm, or bulge, of the coronary arteries that can rupture, inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis), irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias), and other issues with the heart valve. For a small percentage of children who develop coronary problems, Kawasaki disease can cause death.

Kawasaki disease has symptoms that tend to appear in two phases. The first phase can last up to two weeks and typically involves a fever that lasts for five or more days, with symptoms like: 

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Pink rash on the body
  • Lips that appear red, dry, or cracked
  • Red, swollen tongue
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen palms of the hands and soles of the feet
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck

The second phase typically occurs about two weeks after the onset of the fever. Symptoms can include:

  • Peeling of skin on hands and feet
  • Joint pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Irritability

There is no clear evidence as to what causes Kawasaki disease. 

“He didn’t choose to get it and did nothing to attract it,” said Walker about his son’s diagnosis. 

For Kawasaki disease, the only known treatment is immunoglobulin. Immoglobulin (Ig), also known as gamma globulin or immune globulin, refers to the liquid plasma component of blood that contains immunoglobulins or antibodies. The antibodies found in Ig have an important role in the immune system neutralizing bacteria, certain viruses, and other pathogens. Children with Kawasaki disease receive intravenous Ig replacement therapy (IVIG), which delivers the treatment directly into their veins. 

“We described the treatment to Josh as though his body was in a battle,” said Walker. “His soldiers were not doing so well, and they needed some help. That’s where the ‘plasma soldiers’ came in.” The two infusions Josh received were enough to help him win the battle that was going on inside of his body, and today he has completely recovered and has no lasting complications. 

“He always remembers the ‘plasma soldiers,’” said Walker. “Seeing Josh so sick and lifeless in a hospital bed scared my wife and I. We had heard of donating plasma but never realized how important it was and how easy it was to donate.” 

Walker’s wife is unable to donate plasma but pushes for plasma awareness and is a regular blood donor. For over two years, Walker has regularly donated plasma every two weeks at his local plasma donation center in Dunedin, New Zealand. “There are volunteers and full-time staff who look after us really well. They are always friendly and professional and making donating a breeze.”

“Not only am I now a regular plasma donor,” said Walker. “We also want to raise as much awareness around the need for plasma donations and get as many donors through the door as possible.” Walker has an active social media account where he regularly shares information about plasma donation with his followers as well as his life in New Zealand, his photography, and adventures surfing, running, and more.

“We will always feel indebted to every single plasma donor out there, and this is the least we can do.”

Feeling inspired by Walker’s story? Learn more about how you can become a hero to someone like Josh by donating plasma.

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