Plasma provides hope: Patient turns “something lousy and scary” into good

Lead technician Madeline Hernandez holds a bag of plasma at the Delaware Blood Bank in Dover. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

DOVER — Ashley Wilson expected the first visit to take 15 minutes or so, but it lasted more like an hour.

No problem, the coronavirus survivor said.

Ms. Wilson has donated her plasma twice more to the Blood Bank of Delmarva, including at the Dover site on Thursday.

The Lewes resident is supporting a convalescent treatment therapy aiding the internal fight against COVID-19 for others afflicted.

Ashley Wilson

“If they’ll have me I’ll probably do it a few more times,” said Ms. Wilson, who tested positive for the virus on March 25 and then suffered for days from self-described horrible headaches, intestinal distress, a low grade fever, weird chills, along with losing her sense of taste.

“I feel fortunate to turn something that was lousy and scary for me into something good for somebody else.”

Initial studies indicate transfused antibodies from the plasma, especially protein, can provide support in battling the viral infection.

“It’s not a game changer but early results have been very encouraging,” Dr. Vinoo Ramsaran said last week at the Bayhealth Hospital, Kent Campus.

Only eligible blood donors recovered from COVID-19 and with a lab confirmed test participate, according to the Food and Drug Administration. They must have been asymptomatic for at least 14 days to give.

Lead technician Madeline Hernandez prepares blood donor Patricia Megahey of Lewes at the Delaware Blood Bank in Dover.

The Blood Bank of Delmarva had seen 239 donors in Christiana and 70 in Dover, spokesman Tony Prado said Friday. Each donor can give three to four units during a donation.

Units have been shipped to Delaware hospitals, from Maine to Virgina and to the Midwest states. Each dose contains 200 milliliters.

Bayhealth has treated 12 patients, including two who had “pretty good outcomes, ones that were not expected to turn around quickly but did,” Dr. Ramsaran said.

The therapy has existed for more than a century and never been more important now.

Treatment comes on patients who are most critical, ones on a ventilator or suffering multiple organ failure. Dr. Ramsaran said positive effects can be noticeable within an average of 12 days, based on study from China. Plasma is made available within one to two hours of request, he said.

The effort requires “a lot of collaboration between physicians, nurses, lab staff, respiratory staff and the administration,” Dr. Ramsaran said.

On Friday, Beebe Healthcare had treated 15 cases so far, according to spokesman Ryan Marshall.

Additionally, Beebe is “educating recovered patients about the possibility of donation if they meet the requirements,” said Dr. Bill Chasanov, Infectious Disease and Medical Director of the COVID-19 Response Team.

Said Dr. Chasanov, when Beebe announced its therapy treatment plan on April 20, “This type of therapy has been around for many years. By providing antibodies, proteins that attack infection, from recovered patient’s plasma, this could help our severely sick patients have a better chance to fight the COVID-19 disease.”

Convalescent plasma therapy originated more than a century ago.

The Mayo clinic said study findings will eventually be complied and shared, likely by the FDA. More information is available online at covidplasma.org. Donations are being collected at more than 2,000 sites.

Potential plasma donors can contact the Blood Bank of Delmarva online at delmarvablood.org/cpdonor, or by calling 1-888-8BLOOD-8. Beebe Healthcare directed anyone interested to BBD.

Interested participants can also contact Bayhealth Coronavirus Management Team member Holly Dapias, RN, at 612-1862.


Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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