Had COVID-19? Your plasma is in demand | VailDaily.com
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Had COVID-19? Your plasma is in demand

Antibodies in plasma may help others with COVID-19 recover quicker

Vitalant Blood Drive
  • What: Convalescent plasma and whole blood donations
  • Where: Gondola Ballroom at the Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa, Avon, CO
  • When: August 20 from 10:30 a.m. until 3 p.m.
  • Appointments: vitalant.org or 303-363-2300
  • Next Event: Sept. 10 at the Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa

The Vail Valley was known as a hot spot for COVID-19 early on during the pandemic and now it’s a hot spot for convalescent plasma donations. If you’ve recovered from COVID-19, you can play a vital role in helping patients recover.

Over half a dozen mobile convalescent plasma drives have taken place in Vail since April. Dr. Nadine Lober, a local veterinarian who had COVID-19 back in March, had been driving to Denver to donate a few times when she started thinking about how she could bring the plasma drives to Vail.

With the help of Lober’s sister, Dr. Alma Juels, assistant professor of anesthesiology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, the pair was able to coordinate with Vitalant to organize a mobile convalescent plasma drive twice a week for a month this spring. Vitalant is the country’s second-largest independent blood provider with nearly 1,000 centers across 40 states.  

“The participation from our Vail Valley community has been tremendous. All 16 slots were filled each day so we were able to collect as much plasma as we could during each drive. Each convalescent plasma donation can help up to three people in critical condition in an ICU ward battling the disease,” Lober said.

Saving lives, saving beds

Although giving plasma to COVID-19 patients is still experimental, it’s been shown to benefit those fighting the virus.

“In some states where COVID-19 is spiking, they are actually giving plasma to COVID-19 patients and they can recover at home instead of taking up a bed,” Lober said.

The latest study entitled “Effect of Convalescent Plasma on Mortality of Hospitalized Patients with COVID-19: Initial Three Month Experience” is showing promising results of using convalescent plasma to help those afflicted with COVID-19 recover faster. The Mayo Clinic served as the academic research organization conducting the study.

The idea of using transfusions of plasma isn’t new. The report states that passive antibody transfer, including convalescent plasma or serum, has previously been used to treat infectious diseases that involve the respiratory system.

“This therapeutic approach was established early in the last century and included widespread use of convalescent plasma for treatment of the 1918 influenza. In this context, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has revived interest in the use of convalescent plasma for the treatment of hospitalized patients with COVID-19. Although there is substantial interest in the use of COVID-19 convalescent plasma, the efficacy signals are preliminary” the report said.

Dr. Lober personally knows a few people who were severely affected with COVID-19 symptoms and were given the convalescent plasma and it helped them.

It saved my life,” said Dr. Christoper Ciarallo with Denver Health, who was given convalescent plasma from a plasma collection drive in Vail when he was stricken with COVID-19. “I’m so grateful to Dr. Lober and Dr. Alma Juels for starting this plasma drive with the wonderful Vail Valley residents who have donated, and those who will.”

“The reward is getting a text from Vitalant saying that your plasma helped save a life,” Lober said.

During these difficult times when everybody is under stress and feeling helpless, Lober said it feels good to be able to give back.

“It has been very rewarding, I can’t even put it into words, but to participate in the success of treating sick patients and now that they are finding that giving convalescent plasma to patients early in the disease can prevent them from becoming even more ill is amazing,” Lober said. “I want to thank the Valley Valley for helping so many patients with the disease.”

Vitalant will be hosting a blood and convalescent plasma drive on Aug. 20 from 10:30 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. at The Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa in Avon. For more information and to find out if you qualify to give convalescent plasma or blood and to make an appointment, contact Vitalant at 303-363-2300 or go to https://donors.vitalant.org/dwp/portal/dwa and reference code 10252.

Who can donate plasma

Not just anyone can donate convalescent plasma. The FDA is guiding blood centers on how to qualify these donors. According to Dr. Samantha Mack, Vitalant’s Medical Director for this region, you must meet four criteria:

  • You need to have a laboratory copy of a confirmed COVID-19 nasal swab test.
  • After being symptom-free for 14 days, you can repeat the nasal swab test showing a negative result. Or you can wait to be symptom-free for 28 days and you won’t need a second nasal swab test.
  • If you have not had a positive nasal swab test but had the COVID-19 symptoms and were sick and got a positive antibody test.
  • You have to qualify as a regular blood donor. Visit Vitalant.org for more information on general blood donation eligibility.

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