It’s easy for Sondra Hedgspeth to understand why her work matters. She’s the assistant manager of quality at a CSL Plasma Center in Birmingham, Alabama, where donors give plasma that is used to make medicines for rare and serious conditions.
She’s also the mother of Tripp, who is looking forward to playing catcher for his school’s baseball team. But he didn’t start out looking like a ball player he is today.
“Tripp was only 5 pounds, one ounce and 18-inches long. He was born premature, and his lungs were underdeveloped. He had to stay in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) for 20 days before coming home,” Sondra Hedgspeth said.
After he was released from the NICU, Tripp seemed healthy but then his mother noticed a golf ball-sized lump near his right rib cage. They rushed him to the ER where he underwent surgery the next morning. Doctors said it was a bone infection he acquired while in the hospital. The severe infection partially deteriorated two of his ribs, but doctors told his family he would recover.
Test results later showed that Tripp’s body produced only some of the antibodies needed to fight off infections. An immunologist recommended infusions of a medicines derived from donated human plasma.
“It was a tough time for us, but the plasma-based therapies worked,” she said. She learned to self-administer the medicine at home and later doctors were able to wean Tripp from treatment. She is grateful he is a healthy, active kid today. In addition to baseball, Tripp likes riding his dirt bike and is looking forward to starting eighth grade.
With 325 donation centers in the United States, CSL Plasma is among the largest collectors of human plasma. The blood component is used exclusively to make medicines that treat rare conditions such as immune system problems and hemophilia.
“There's not a doubt in my mind that his life would have been so very different if it wasn't for CSL Plasma and for our donors,” she said. “I feel blessed to be a part of something so incredibly life-changing."