Plasma donations needed from Nebraskans to help COVID-19 patients

Published: Aug. 3, 2020 at 6:55 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - When Nebraska's COVID-19 cases hit their peak earlier in May, thousands of New Yorkers donated convalescent plasma, many of those units, helping patients right here in Nebraska.

It's all part of a federal initiative with the Department of Health and Human Services. Basically, if you've tested positive for coronavirus and have been symptom-free for the last two weeks, you can potentially save a life with your plasma.

Here’s how it works:

Convalescent plasma contains antibodies, which research shows help clear coronavirus at a faster rate. Plasma donations are most effective when given to someone who’s tested positive in the last week to 10 days.

The donation process takes about 45 minutes and is all done on a special machine.

One donation of convalescent plasma can help up to 3 patients.

"The concept of convalescent plasma is that if we can give you antibodies from somebody else, you can be a few days ahead on fighting it off," says Jed Gorlin, Nebraska Community Blood Bank's medical director.

So far, the blood bank has collected over 500 plasma donations. Most will go to help COVID-19 patients here in Nebraska. Extra donations will be sent to hot spot areas like California, Florida and Texas.

By the end of this year, over 300,000 donations are expected to be collected. Since the plasma donation process returns all of your body’s nutrients and red blood cells back to you, it’s possible to donate up to four times every week.

Gorlin tells 10/11 this isn’t the first time this type of treatment is being used, “The first noble prize in medicine in the early 1900s was for convalescent plasma, in this case, the flu, not COVID, but it’s the same idea. It’s a viral respiratory illness.”

Medical experts are calling plasma donations a "first-choice therapy" to treat COVID-19 until a vaccine arrives.

To help maintain social distancing and make the process faster, The Nebraska Community Blood Bank is accepting donations by appointments only.

The same rules apply for donating plasma as they do for blood donations. You can see if you’re eligible and book a donation appointment by visiting the Nebraska Community Blood Bank’s website.

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