There are two things Gina Connelly attributes to making her feel very comfortable having her blood drawn and donating plasma - being a veterinarian and a mother of five. Not only is she comfortable seeing blood drawn daily with her furry patients, but she was also familiar with having an IV administered and blood tests during her four pregnancies.
Her familiarity in the medical field as a small animal veterinarian and passion for helping others sparked her interest in donating plasma right away. She had donated whole blood in the past but always wanted to donate plasma.
This summer, a friend of Gina’s, who works in the human medical field, mentioned that plasma donations were severely needed amid source plasma shortages due to the coronavirus pandemic and a lack of donors. That’s when she began discussing the idea with friends and colleagues at her veterinary office.
She knew that plasma could produce therapies to treat many diseases and disorders, but she wasn’t aware of all its uses and benefits until recently. It wasn’t until her first donation when she learned about plasma use in lifesaving research and lifesaving therapies for patients who need it.
What eventually pushed Gina to make a first donation was finding out that her friend’s daughter suffered from a primary immunodeficiency (PI) and was kept healthy and alive from a monthly infusion of immunoglobulin therapy derived from plasma.
Gina and a friend from work went together to make their first plasma donations on August 31. Now, four-time donors, they are making a routine of it. After the donation, they will often go to the mall or grab lunch.
“I’m constantly on the go, so it’s actually nice to have some time for yourself,” Gina said. “It’s really not much time, and you can help some nice people. Everyone there makes you feel very comfortable.”
Gina recalled that the technicians have been nice, friendly, and extremely attentive and perceptive to her needs throughout the entire donation process each time she has donated. She notes that it is not much different than a whole blood donation, aside from the more intensive initial screening.
Seeing how plasma directly helps treat patients has solidified Gina’s commitment to donating plasma. Her personal connection to a plasma recipient has deepened her desire to continue donating and inspire others to become first-time donors.
Gina has even convinced many of her friends and colleagues at the veterinary office to donate plasma.
“I want to get the word out and let people know it’s not a scary experience,” Gina said. “I feel like I’m really doing something to help people. It’s more than worth it to make the donation.”