Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Practice social distancing.
We all know these simple measures can help slow the spread of COVID-19, but for those in our community who have already been impacted by the virus, there is another way to help: donating plasma.
“Our most urgent need right now is convalescent plasma,” says Allie Van Dyke with The Blood Connection. “The demand is outrunning supply. We have to get this on the shelves.”
Convalescent plasma is the liquid part of the blood that contains antibodies to fight various infections.
“When patients recover from an infection, the body makes antibodies so they won’t get the infection again,” says Dr. Robert Rainer, medical director for The Blood Connection. “With convalescent plasma we harvest those antibodies and give them to someone else through infusion, giving them what’s called passive immunity.”
Rainer says convalescent plasma is being used in hospitals as a front-line therapy for patients fighting COVID-19 to prevent the progression of the disease.
“When a patient looks like they may be going into respiratory failure, hospitals are using the product to slow it down and let the patient’s own immune system fight more effectively,” he says. “I call the coronavirus a world-class sprinter — it outruns the body’s ability to fight it off. With convalescent plasma we’re giving the body a 50-yard head start. It’s not 100% effective, but when it does work it is quite impressive.”
- Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Practice social distancing.
- We all know these simple measures can help slow the spread of COVID-19, but for those in our community
- who have already been impacted by the virus, there is another way to help: donating plasma.
FIRST S.C. RECIPIENT
Lisa Hardin, a nurse from Columbia, was the first patient in South Carolina to receive convalescent plasma with the help of The Blood Connection. She shared her experience in a letter:
“I received my plasma transfusion on April 13, and I cannot explain to you the changes that miraculously started to happen inside of my body. I felt like there was a battle going on in my body, but this time, I was winning! I fell into a hard and fast sleep after receiving the antibodies, and when I woke up, I could not believe the energy I felt already. I had lost my sense of taste and smell as a first symptom of the virus. That morning they brought me breakfast, and I decided to at least drink the coffee as it was warm and made my throat feel better. To my amazement, I could taste and smell the coffee! All during that day, the nurses slowly began to wean my oxygen and I tolerated it without any desaturation! I could breathe again, and the fever was gone! My doctors and nurses were amazed, but no one was more amazed than me! I praise God for the gift of “life” that my donor sent to me! I was told I was the first patient in South Carolina to receive the convalescent plasma, and I KNOW it saved my life.”
Rainer says the use of convalescent plasma is not a new technique, but because COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus — meaning a new virus — there is no innate immunity in the population.
“Relatively few people have the antibodies compared to the population as a whole, so we’re counting on them to come in and donate,” he says.
In addition to accepting donations from people who have recovered from COVID-19, The Blood Connection is also currently screening all whole blood donations for antibodies, as it is possible to develop antibodies while remaining asymptomatic.
If you have a positive result from a COVID-19 nose swab or an antibody blood test, your plasma may help save a life.
INVESTIGATIONAL BUT EFFECTIVE
“Even though convalescent plasma is investigational, it’s one of the most effective treatments we have to treat patients with COVID-19,” says Dr. John Kudlak, division chief for Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine with Prisma Health. “Given early in the course of the disease, it can help lessen the severity of complications and illness in many patients. A delay in treatment could worsen patient outcomes. We ask that everyone who has recovered from COVID-19 please consider donating this potential lifesaver, which is in such short supply right now.”
Call 864-751-1168 to schedule an appointment at any of The Blood Connection’s five Upstate center locations.