AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF)– If you’ve recovered from COVID, you have something that can help a lot of sick patients: COVID-19 antibodies.
The Shepeard Community Blood Center really, really needs your COVID convalescent plasma (CCP) right now.
Jennie: “So, a lot of you know my family and I had COVID in July and one thing that you always hear is, once you recover from the virus you can give your plasma. We decided to do that, my daughter and I came straight to Shepeard Community Blood Center. We’re gonna take you through the process.”
Shepeard needs up to 10 COVID plasma donors a week and they need every blood type, according to
Apheresis Program Director, Melinda Woodell.
“The thing with CCP, it’s blood-type specific. We need As we need O’s we need B’s to date we’ve never collected any AB COVID plasma, so when people think, ‘I’m not gonna make a difference,’ well- you do make a difference.”
Our process started several days ago, when we had some blood drawn for COVID antibody testing. And any woman who has ever been pregnant must be screened for the HLA antibody, to. If it’s present, you’ll be deferred, but that’s not the only thing that prevent you from donating.
Woodell, a Regestered Nurse, says not everyone can donate blood and blood products.
“There’s a lot of restriction because we have to maintain the blood safety. That could be travel restrictions, a medication restriction, a surgical restriction.In order to be a CCP donor, you have to first meet all those FDA regulations.
I knew I was “banned for life” from giving blood because of months I spent in England during my college years. But I didn’t know that applied to my plasma, too… so sadly, I was deferred because of the travel restrictions. But my daughter, Sky, got the green light!
“They’ll come into the center, they’ll give me their paperwork of their positive test results, they’ll donate plasma, we’ll freeze it. The antibody test for us will take about 5 days and so once we get confirmation of their COVID antibodies then they become CCP donors.”
And if you’re worried about being in close contact with others, Woodell says they’ve always been accustomed to keeping things sanitized. Shepeard is practicing social distancing as much as possible, and all other CDC safety guidelines.
“If you come to our centers, the staff is wearing masks, we’ve always disinfected, we’ve always worn gloves. The pre-made kits have everything in there. It minimizes bacteria contamination, it minimizes the time the tech needs to be with the donor. Once the donor gets hooked up the techs will kind of step away and give em some space to minimize that close interaction.”
Sky said it fells just like giving blood, but the optics are different.
“The stakes feel different. The actual process of the needle in the arm feels the same, but the machine– very different. And that might make you a little bit nervous? Yeah, that’s why I keep looking away, I’m so sorry. But when it says DRAW, I have to squeeze, and I want to keep it in the green, and when it says RETURN I have to stop.”
“We only want the plasma,” Woodell says. “the liquid portion of your blood. So we give you everything else – you get your your red cells back you get your platelets back, your white cells back, and we just keep that plasma so that process happens a couple of times until we fill the bags and then you’re done!”
Once you are a CCP donor you can give once a week for four weeks, take four weeks off, then start the process again. Shepeard is constantly checking your antibodies to make sure you aren’t going to run low and then put yourself at risk.
“In order for us to label something as CCP the FDA has said you have to maintain a certain amount of antibodies and we’ve already been doing that since day one. We would never collect CCP from somebody and then their antibodies drop.”
Sky says it feels good that something positive can come from her COVID illness.
“Right now there’s so much fear; so much of protect yourself, protect your neighbor, you know, ‘mask up, everybody!’ but this is a way you can actively do something good.”
If you want to donate CCP, call Shepeard Community Blood Center at 706.737.4551 for more information, or fill out the questionnaire here and someone will call you within a day.