Helping one another is one of our strengths. Whether it’s showing up for moving day or donating an organ, we all help whenever we can. Now, if you have recovered from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), there is another way you can make a difference.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is allowing convalescent plasma donated by those who have recovered from COVID-19 to be used as an investigational treatment for current patients.
Although the FDA hasn’t officially approved the plasma treatment, initial indicators show that donated plasma can boost a patient’s antibody response to the COVID-19 infection, helping them recover faster and, hopefully, with fewer complications.
“We’ve had excellent success, we are seeing less patients requiring ICU (intensive care unit) care, less patients requiring intubation, more patients discharging home without ever having to go to the ICU,” said Dr. John Farrell, medical director for quality and safety at OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center.
How the treatment works
Convalescent plasma is part of a bundle used to treat the disease, which also includes the use of steroids, zinc, Vitamin D, and anticoagulation over a five-day course of treatment. The plasma is given on day two.
As they recover and are discharged home, patients are encouraged to pay it forward to help others fight the virus that landed them in the hospital. Plasma from just one recovered donor can help at least three others.
“When we discharge them home, we remind them that they can help the next patient a month from now. So a month after they recover, they donate plasma. That plasma will be infused in a patient with the same blood type as them who comes in with the subsequent infection.”
For Dr. Farrell, it has been gratifying to see the positive impact convalescent plasma has on the patients he’s treated.
“This disease is a chameleon, there’s no question that it still has tricks up its sleeve. It still can cause unintended, unanticipated complications. Having developed this coherent, five-pronged response to treatment is really gratifying to know the plan from day one, to be able to look the patient in the eyes and say, ‘We have a plan. You’re gonna be fine.’”
The need for blood
As hospitals have eased restrictions on elective surgeries and are now providing treatment options that were previously postponed, there has been an increase in demand for blood components by hospitals. This is our chance to make a real difference for those in need.
OSF HealthCare works with Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center (MVRBC) to supply blood components to the majority of its hospitals. MVRBC says the process is safe with donors required to make appointments, face coverings required by donors and staff and physical distancing practiced by spacing donor chairs.