Plasma recipient celebrates 10 years, 1,000 donations with 100km fundraiser

Part of our ‘heroes of financial giving’ series

Plasma
November 30, 2020
Natalie Pallisco plasma recipient and blood donor posing while out for a run

Ten years ago, Natalie Pallisco woke up one morning and discovered she couldn’t get out of bed.

When she tried to swing her feet onto the floor, her legs gave out completely and were suddenly unable to support her body weight.

Just a few days prior, the generally healthy, active 10-year-old had represented her school at a cross-country meet. Now, she couldn’t even stand upright.

Natalie’s parents rushed her to the nearest emergency room, where she was diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder called Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS).

This inflammatory disorder is characterized by the rapid onset of numbness, weakness and paralysis of the legs, arms, face and breathing muscles. It’s not fully known what causes it – just that the symptoms usually strike fast.

To stop the travelling paralysis from reaching her internal organs, Natalie was treated with intravenous immune globulin (IVIG), a product made from donated plasma.

“It was like a miracle drug”

Used to treat a range of conditions, IVIG consists of concentrated proteins (antibodies) extracted from the plasma collected from thousands of donors.

The treatment provides a critical boost of immunity to help patients fight infection or slow the progress of an autoimmune disorder.

“IVIG stopped my paralysis right away and saved my life,” says Natalie. “It was like a miracle drug; I would have died without it.”

As Natalie got older, she grew more interested in the science behind blood products and was moved to learn just how many plasma donors it took to create the treatment that saved her life.

“Discovering that it takes thousands of pooled plasma donations to extract the antibodies needed to prepare IVIG products was what prompted my own journey of giving,” she says.

It soon became a goal of Natalie’s to repay the generosity of the thousands of donors who had helped save her life, by somehow being part of 1,000 donations herself.

“I knew I couldn’t donate [1,000] units of blood directly in my lifetime, but I thought maybe I could help coordinate donation events, volunteer at local clinics, and help build greater awareness,” she says.

“That way, even if I’m not directly responsible for 1,000 blood donations, I could say I’ve played a role in helping to facilitate that many donations.”

Just a few years after setting her lofty goal, Natalie has already donated blood eight times.

She also began volunteering for Canadian Blood Services in high school, where she helped coordinate regular blood donation drives and was indirectly part of hundreds of blood donations.

Now a student at Western University in London, Ont., she continues to serve as an avid volunteer at mobile donation events and regularly encourages her classmates to donate blood products.

Anniversary fundraiser inspires many small gifts, one big difference

Today, Natalie is 20, and recently marked the 10-year anniversary of her diagnosis.

To celebrate the fact that she can now easily jump out of bed every morning — as if the paralysis never happened — she decided to run 100 kilometres and launch an online fundraising campaign in support of Canadian Blood Services.

Natalie’s campaign goal was to inspire friends, family and colleagues to make a financial gift that would help boost donor recruitment initiatives, strengthen national programs and initiatives for blood and ensure other patients could receive the blood products they needed.

While she says she was grateful that her efforts attracted several large donations, Natalie was particularly struck by how small donations to her campaign added up.

“One of my best friends organized a group donation, where everyone pooled in a small amount – some people gave $5 or $10, for example – but it worked out to about $300! Their efforts showed that every dollar really does make a difference,” she says. Altogether, Natalie’s campaign raised approximately $1,200.

Reflecting on the support she received from her network of friends and family, Natalie says that their actions reminded her of the generosity of all those plasma donors — the thousands of strangers — whose donated blood products had helped save her life a decade earlier.

“The positive response I received through my fundraising campaign made me think of my IVIG treatment,” says Natalie.

“In both cases, so many people came together to make small gifts that added up to make a huge difference.”

Thinking about launching your own fundraising campaign? 

Through our online portal (give.blood.ca/diy), aspiring fundraisers can easily set up a dynamic personal or team page to share campaign goals with others, track fundraising progress and seamlessly thank supporters.

The portal also provides helpful resources that make it easy for you to promote your online campaign or virtual event on social media and spread the word far and wide about how financial gifts can make a lifesaving impact for Canadian patients.

Celebrating our heroes of financial giving and their lifesaving impact  

At Canadian Blood Services, we need donors of all kinds to support us in our quest to help every patient, match every need and serve every Canadian.  

Financial donors play a role in strengthening Canada’s Lifeline by helping us to grow and diversify our donor base and invest in cutting-edge research and technology that will help to meet ongoing and emerging patient needs.  

That’s why this November, we’re celebrating our heroes of financial giving. 

Financial supporters of Canadian Blood Services are generous individuals, organizations and partners from across the country who hold fundraisers, make monthly or annual financial contributions, invest in innovative research or honour their loved ones by supporting patients.   

In celebration of National Philanthropy Day (Nov. 15), we’re publishing a series of stories all through the month, to profile our growing community of financial supporters and to recognize how their generosity is helping us to catalyze meaningful change for patients and their families.  

Read our latest annual report to financial donors to learn more about the impact of financial gifts to Canadian Blood Services. 

 blood.ca/yourgifts2020

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