My 2008 journey through Burkitt’s lymphoma resulted in many changes to my body. One of these changes is hypogammaglobulinemia. Big fancy word to say I don’t produce IgG, an immunoglublin necessary to fight infection. I receive 40 grams of IgG every month for the rest of my life to reduce the chance of infection.
What are immunoglobulins? They are an antibody that is part of the body’s defense against infection. From Wikipedia: Antibodies are major components of the immune system. IgG is the main antibody isotype found in blood and extracellular fluid allowing it to control infection of body tissues.
I like to use the following metaphor to help explain IgG deficiency. Think of the body’s ability to fight infection as a vast military. Within this military are divisions (army, navy, marines, etc). Within these division, specialists exist that are trained to do exact procedures. I like to consider white blood cells (WBC’s) as an active soldier. They go out and fight and engage actively. Active immunity.
Immunoglobulins are proteins that help form passive immunity. They sort of hang out and wait (float around). I picture a land mine. Something foreign steps on them (rubs against them), they attach and neutralize the threat. Passive immunity. There are five kings of immunoglobulins (Ig): IgM, IgA, IgG, IgE, and IgD. Any loss of any antibody is a problem. Some of these are specific to certain areas of they body; they are specific to what kind of infection they fight.
A few facts about IgG. IgG is approximately 80% of all immunoglobulins in the body, making it the most populous immune globulin present in the body. A dose is made from plasma donations. The FDA requires a minimum of 1,000 separate plasma donations be used to produce a single dose of IgG. I have read articles stating that as many as 20,000 different plasma donations are used to produce a single dose. Wild thought, would you agree? That is a lot of plasma to make one single dose! Thank you plasma donors!
It is a clear bubbly liquid. I get mild headaches, itching, and feel a bit restless after the infusion. I receive Tylenol and Benadryl before the infusion. I take more benadryl when I get home. I used to receive an injection of steroids routinely before the dose, but told them to cut that out. I do not like steroids and I do better without them in my estimation. The infusion takes about 2.5 – 3 hours. It starts slowly then they speed it up.
I have to have my dose of this every 28-30 days for life. It is expensive, with the billed amount at approximately $17,000 on paper. Mind you, the insurance company only has to reimburse for around $6,000 per infusion. If I was billed, I would have to pay the full price.
I thank God for all the plasma donors. If it weren’t for you, people like me wouldn’t be able to receive such an important medication. Never discount the importance of donating blood, plasma, and platelets. These are critical to people like myself.