Forty Winnipeg mothers who had suffered through Hemolytic Disease of the Newborn (HDN) or Rh Disease pregnancies collectively became known as the Rh Ladies when they were enlisted to donate their plasma containing these special anti-D antibodies.
These women were Rh negative and had multiple pregnancies with fetuses that would have been Rh positive leading to production of antibodies to Rh antigen on their red blood cells. Dr Bowman could save some of their HDH babies through fetal blood transfusions but some were not so fortunate. All acted selflessly to donate their plasma so other women like them could escape losing their babies due to HDN.
The donated antibodies were later purified to make Anti-D Immune Globulin medications that are given to women that are Rh negative and may have a Rh-Positive fetus. The mother can receive this medication at 28 weeks gestation and at birth to prevent their immune system from making antibodies that could harm the fetus.
All the women were required to be boosted with specialized screened pedigreed red blood cells to maintain the antibody levels which would otherwise fade over time.
The donors themselves were very health conscious as they have routine checks on BP, Pulse, temp, protein and red cells. They had to watch their diet, eat lost of protein, iron containing foods as well as stay hydrated. Their regular donations became an opportunity for them to bond in a Rh “social club with their weekly visits to the plasma collection center.