Have you recovered from COVID-19? VCU Health needs your plasma to save lives

Coronavirus

Mechanicsville man planning to donate plasma recounts COVID-19 recovery

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — VCU Medical Center is asking those who have recovered from the novel coronavirus to donate antibody-rich plasma.

Anyone who is interested in becoming a plasma donor “must have recovered from and tested negative for COVID-19 or have been asymptomatic for 28 days, and must otherwise be healthy,” VCU Health said.

The medical center was approved by Mayo Clinic’s Expanded Access Program to administer antibody-rich convalescent plasma for the treatment of COVID-19. In a release, VCU Health said they are getting ready to give convalescent plasma to a COVID-19-positive patient this week.

“Patients are transfused with the donor’s plasma in hopes that it will help the patient’s own immune system attack the virus and help the patient recover faster. The targeted antibodies could help boost the immune system of someone fighting COVID-19 until their body can produce antibodies on its own,” Infectious Diseases Specialist Jeffrey Donowitz, M.D. said.

Don Chandler, a Mechanicsville man who was in the hospital for a few days with the virus, told 8News Tuesday that he wants to help save those still fighting the disease by donating his anti-body rich plasma. The 54-year-old recounted his journey to recovery after testing positive early this month.

“I was real shallow breathing, hard fighting for a breath, I went to the ER,” he explained. “The chest x-ray showed cloudiness and pneumonia.”

Chandler thanked prepared doctors and successful treatments for keeping him alive, saying he “got better in days.” He is now looking forward to helping in the fight against the pandemic.

“There’s people dying,” Chandler said. “If they can do something with the plasma, and I’m O positive, then by all means let’s get y’all some plasma.”

According to VCU Health, convalescent plasma is not new treatment therapy.

“It was used during the 1918 flu pandemic, to treat measles in the 1930s and recently to treat Ebola, SARS and H1N1, also known as swine influenza,” VCU Health said.

Doctors are essentially taking the blood’s antibodies, or proteins that fight off the infection, and giving them to other severely sick patients.

“So that those people, the recipients, the patients who receive the Covid-19 serum, can get those immunoglobulins to help them fight off the infection,” VCU epidemiologist Dr. Gonzalo Bearman said.

Bearman told 8News that VCU will try the treatment on patients this week and expect to see some type of improvement within 72 hours. He said that six coronavirus patients at VCU Health are set to get plasma donations this week.

“Gives us some measured confidence and some optimism that will make a dent in some of the more severe cases,” Bearman explained. “It’s very important. It’s one additional option that we have in our treatment.”

The director of VCU Health’s Infection Prevention Program said that if the plasma proves to be effective in COVID-19-positive patients it could save lives.

If you would like to donate, you can join a confidential COVID-19 registry to donate plasma. The hospital will then contact you for blood donations.

The American Red Cross will screen and collect the plasma, according to VCU Medical. The antibodies donated will then be used to help treat patients with severe cases of COVID-19.

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