’It saved my life’: COVID-19 survivors reflect on importance of convalescent plasma donations

KSAT-TV EXTRA: Man who spent weeks in hospital, KSAT producer share their stories

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Coronavirus symptoms can look and feel different to each person. While the coronavirus has proven its potential to be deadly, some of its victims may never know they were infected at all. One thing every case has in common, no matter how mild or severe, is the ability it creates to help others fight the virus.

Health experts say the antibodies found in the blood and plasma of those who have recovered from COVID-19 can help patients who are currently hospitalized due to the virus.

KSAT-TV caught up with two COVID-19 survivors while they gave a donation. KSAT GMSA producer Gaby Anez and local resident Joseph Dorrian, whose experience has come full circle. After spending weeks in the hospital and on a ventilator, a plasma donation helped Dorrian regain the strength to breath on his own.

To date, the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center, which has locations in San Antonio, New Braunfels and Victoria, has sent nearly 6,000 units of convalescent plasma to hospitals throughout South Texas.

But with more requests from hospitals coming in, the donation center says they need more donors to keep up with rising demand. They currently have about 40 donors per day but say they need closer to 75 donors daily.

Dorrian has donated three times since his recovery but is part of a small percentage stepping up to help. Health experts and Mayor Ron Nirenberg are encouraging people who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate plasma to help others, saying that only 900 of the 33,000 people who have recovered in San Antonio have actually donated plasma.

Those who have recovered from COVID-19 can email COVID19@SouthTexasBlood.org to find out if they qualify to donate or visit their website for additional information.

Learn more: What is convalescent plasma?, Walk through donation process

Find answers to frequently asked questions from the FDA about plasma donation below:

A few things to know

If you’re nervous about donating, we thought we’d walk you through exactly what it can look like.

First off, before you head to the donation center, there are a few things you should know:

  • You must have complete resolution of COVID-19 symptoms for at least 14 days before donating.
  • Have a copy of your positive COVID-19 diagnosis to present, if you’re donating for antibody purposes.
  • Make sure you eat a protein-packed meal.

The process

The whole process, from start to finish, can take up to two hours.

  • You will meet with someone who will do a pre-donation screening. This takes about 15 minutes.
  • The pressure of your blood will be checked to ensure it is safe for donating.
  • You will meet with someone who will weigh you and prick your finger to get a sample of your blood. By taking your weight, they will know how much plasma you are eligible to donate. And by taking a sample of your blood, they can separate the plasma quickly to check your iron and red cell blood count. Both must be within a certain range for you to be eligible to donate.
  • You will answer a series of questions and consent to the donation. This will take about 20 minutes to complete. This is worth noting that these questions can be quite personal, just as they are with any blood donation, but they’re necessary to ensure your safety and the safety of whomever may receive your plasma.
  • You’ll meet with a medical historian to get your vitals. First-time donors must undergo a brief physical to ensure you are eligible.
  • You’ll meet with a phlebotomist, who will collect your plasma. This can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.

Each time someone donates, they will be provided a modest compensation. The rate depends on how many times you’ve donated and the location at which you are donating.

Other benefits

Besides helping in the fight against COVID-19, plasma can also be used to produce therapies that treat people with rare, chronic diseases and disorders such as primary immunodeficiency, hemophilia and a genetic lung disease, according to DonatingPlasma.com. It can also help in the treatment of trauma, burns and shock.

Click here to learn more about plasma donation.

I Haven’t Had COVID-19. What Can I Do to Help?

You can also consider donating blood. South Texas Blood and Tissue Center has also seen a decrease in blood supply social distancing measures and with college and high school students not on campus. One blood donation can save up to three lives. Blood is needed every day to provide life-saving treatments to a variety of patients.

The South Texas Blood and Tissue Center has two upcoming blood drives. To schedule a blood donation, visit SouthTexasBlood.org. Find the dates and times below.

August 24, 2020; 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Tower of the Americas - Front Lobby and Entrance Way

739 Cesar Chavez Blvd

San Antonio, TX 78205

August 26-27, 2020; 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Morgan’s Wonderland 5223 David Edward Dr.

San Antonio, TX 78233

You can also schedule appointments at any donor room.

All blood donations will be tested for antibodies.

About the Author

A San Antonio native currently in her dream job as the executive producer behind KSAT special programming like Fiesta parades, Dia De Los Muertos and the Rodeo special. When she's not prepping for these productions, she's helping run KSAT's social media channels.

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