For full-time dancers, muscle pain and joint aches are par for the course.
So, Chloe Bayliss didn’t initially think much of her sore limbs until it morphed into a chronic headache and vomiting after a week.
The then 17-year-old, who was a rising star of ballet and contemporary dance, went to a hospital emergency room, the right side of her face paralysed and her jaw fused shut.
“I had an allergic reaction to a tablet I was given to stop vomiting,” Bayliss, now 28, told news.com.au.
“My body started filling with fluid, I was having multiple seizures and my organs began shutting down. I wound up in intensive care for four months, pretty much fighting for my life. I went into complete kidney failure so I was on dialysis.
“I developed a very rare blood infection that four-in-a-million people get apparently, and so I required plasma transfusions to try to fight that.”
The source of the blood disease couldn’t be traced and so, when she was stabilised and released from the ICU, she required a minimum of 12 bags of plasma each week for almost two years.
Bayliss, now an actor who stars in the hit Channel 9 drama Doctor Doctor, was eventually diagnosed with lupus, an incurable auto-immune disease.
“Everything fell apart,” she said.
She was in her final year at the National College of Dance in Newcastle and had just been accepted into the Washington Ballet Company in the US.
“I was getting ready to go when I got sick,” she said. “I lost everything in terms of dance.”
Once the lupus was diagnosed — it was some 18 months after she was admitted to hospital — treatment on managing the devastating symptoms began.
“I started to rehabilitate myself physically and I eventually got back to finish my diploma, then went to dance in America. I went to Mystic Ballet Company in Connecticut and did a pre-professional year there.
“I was pretty determined. I was very much in love with dance — it was my whole life. It’s all I ever knew. I think in a way, that’s what kept me going — I was determined to dance again. I refused to give up.”
This week is International Plasma Awareness Week.
The Australian Red Cross Blood Service said demand for plasma products had skyrocketed over the past decade.
“Plasma and plasma products can be the last line of defence in the treatment of many serious medical conditions like cancer, bleeding disorders, immune and neurological conditions, and burns,” the organisation’s spokeswoman Nicky Breen said.
“Plasma makes up the majority of our blood and is full of important proteins and nutrients that protect us against invaders and help our blood to clot.”
Despite that, many people don’t know what plasma is and how critical it is to those Australians who rely on it.
Bayliss said she “wouldn’t be here today” without plasma transfusions and thanked everyone who donates.
“I was thinking about it the other day — if I’d turned up one week and they didn’t have the plasma donations for my blood type, I don’t know what would’ve happened. That was my medicine. I needed that,” Bayliss said.
“I am so incredibly thankful to blood and plasma donors. I encourage everyone who’s able to get out and donate.”
Simply put, blood has red and white cells, and everything else is plasma, which is yellow. Healthy and eligible people can donate it every two weeks compared with the 12-week time frame between regular blood donations.
“Plasma has proteins and nutrients that can cure and treat a number of diseases and illnesses,” Bayliss said. “It’s so important. Please, if you can, roll up your sleeves and donate the yellow stuff.”
The Australian Red Cross Blood Service needs 20,000 new plasma donors by the end of the year. To make an appointment or learn more about donating plasma, call 13 14 95 or visit