A mother has joined forces with the NHS to encourage people to donate life-saving blood plasma.
Six-year-old Harley Penty, from Derby, will rely on plasma donations for the rest of his life after he survived cancer which wiped out his immune system.
Harley was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) aged 15 months and his weight dropped quickly in just a few weeks.
Doctors found he had no antibodies to fight infections which meant his gut had become infected, stopping him absorbing food.
His mum Leanne, 37, said: “For us, plasma donation is more important than anything as without it we would not have our little boy.
“I used to sit in the hospital being scared to sleep in case he stopped breathing in the night. It was traumatic.
“Now he is healthy, he loves Sonic the Hedgehog and dinosaurs and cars. He is very chatty and very loving.
“I see a lot about blood and platelet donations but I do not think people know a lot about plasma.
“For us, we would ultimately lose him if people do not donate.”
Plasma is made into antibody medicines known as immunoglobulins, which are used for around 17,000 people every year suffering immune disorders.
Many of those in need of plasma are clinically vulnerable people who have been shielding during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The NHS is currently facing a squeeze on plasma as it depends on imports from other countries, mainly the US, which have been hit by the pandemic.
There has also been a large rise in global demand for immunoglobulins.
In the UK, there was a ban for more than 20 years on using plasma from British donors following concerns over mad cow disease.
UK plasma donations re-started in February this year but awareness among the public is low.
As a result, the NHS is now urging people to sign up to donate plasma at one of the 11 plasma donor centres around the UK.
Plasma needs to be donated separately to blood but it is a simple 45-minute procedure where the plasma is separated from a person’s blood via one fine needle.
The risks are similar to giving blood – dehydration and fatigue, which is why people are encouraged to drink plenty of fluids before, during and after their donation.
The 11 plasma centres are located in Barnsley, Birmingham, Bolton, Bristol, Croydon, Chelmsford, Manchester, Reading, Stratford (London), Stockton on Tees, and Twickenham.
NHS Blood and Transport said it needs 14,500 people to start donating plasma within the next three months to get NHS donation back on track.
Dr Gail Miflin, chief medical officer for NHSBT, said: “The long period without plasma donation in the UK means that while plasma donation is widely recognised in other countries, it has become unfamiliar to people here.
“We need the public’s help to expand our pool of plasma donors and meet the targets which will help make England more self-sufficient in the supply of these lifesaving medicines.”
Dr Susan Walsh, chief executive officer of Immunodeficiency UK, said many people with a primary immunodeficiency cannot make the antibodies they need to protect themselves against infection.
She added: “Removing the ban on the use of UK plasma means the UK can start to become more self-sufficient in producing immunoglobulin products.
“This is a tremendous step forward as it increases the security of supply of the treatment so many people rely upon to help keep life-threatening infections at bay. Please support this campaign and donate plasma, you are saving lives.”