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Turn COVID+ into a positive: donate plasma

COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma graphic courtesy of Armed Services Blood Program. (Courtesy graphic)

COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma graphic courtesy of Armed Services Blood Program. (Courtesy graphic)

Senior Airman Kristen Pittman, 403rd Wing public affairs specialist, gives plasma at Keesler Medical Center Nov. 10, 2020. After contracting COVID-19 in early October, Pittman learned about the possibility of providing antibodies through covid convalescent plasma donation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kristen Pittman)

Senior Airman Kristen Pittman, 403rd Wing public affairs specialist, gives plasma at Keesler Medical Center Nov. 10, 2020. After contracting COVID-19 in early October, Pittman learned about the possibility of providing antibodies through covid convalescent plasma donation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kristen Pittman)

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --

So, you tested positive for Covid-19 and immobilized your whole shop for two weeks?

It happens.

Okay maybe it doesn’t, but it happened to me.

At the beginning of October I got a call from a friend I had recently been around. They tested positive and were doing their due diligence to alert those they had been in contact with.

Despite the fact that I was feeling fine, I did my part and got tested. Unfortunately, I too tested positive. Luckily, due to COVID-19 mitigation efforts going on since March, everyone in the office is well-versed in teleworking, so we all made it work through the two-week quarantine period.

While living "COVIDa loca" was not fun, one positive did come from it (other than the positive test result).

I was alerted to the importance of COVID convalescent plasma donation from individuals who tested positive for COVID-19.

I have given blood since I was in high school, but I never really knew anything about plasma.

According to the Armed Services Blood Program, convalescent plasma is the liquid part of blood from those who have recovered from an infection. Antibodies present in convalescent plasma are proteins that help patients fight an active infection.

You see where I’m going with this?

Donating your plasma, the yellow stuff carrying your COVID antibodies, can help others fight off the virus or researchers trying to better understand the virus.

The ASBP defines eligibility requirements as follows:

  • Must be 17 years of age and at least 110 pounds
  • If you have been pregnant, additional testing might be required if you developed Human Leukocyte Antigen antibodies since your last pregnancy.
  • Prior diagnosis of coronavirus AND meet specific laboratory criteria
  • Be symptom free for 14 days or more

After meeting the requirements and going through a screening process, I was hooked up to an apheresis machine and donating was as easy as munching on crackers, watching sports on the TV and squeezing a stress ball intermittently. The process only took about 25 minutes for 420 milliliters of plasma, roughly two bags, and unlike blood donations where you have to wait eight weeks, I will be able to donate again in four weeks.

From there, my plasma was sent to a lab where it will be tested for antibodies, and it will be shelved as CCV or just regular old plasma ready to help someone in need. Either way it’s a win-win because, according to the American Red Cross, 10,000 units of plasma are needed daily for a multitude of reasons such as trauma or cancer.

Obviously, the first and foremost priority is to stay safe and avoid exposure, but in the event that you are one of those that gets sick, consider, once you are eligible, giving the gift of your antibodies to those who need them. And even if you don’t have the antibodies, that’s fine, people ALWAYS need blood, plasma, and platelets.

‘Tis the season after all.

To learn more about the Armed Services Blood Program, click here. For general blood services contact the Keesler Blood Donor Center at 228-376-6100.