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A COVID-19 survivor donates plasma to help current patients fighting the virus. Source: Geisinger

Danville, Pa. – If you’ve had COVID-19 and recovered, you have a special gift you can give someone else who’s sick. You can donate your blood plasma, which has unique antibodies that may help to fight the illness.

Geisinger is joining Miller-Keystone Blood Center in reaching out to those who have fully recovered from COVID-19 to help current patients who have contracted the coronavirus. Convalescent plasma from a person who has recovered from COVID-19 contains antibodies that may provide a powerful boost to someone else fighting the viral infection.

Antibody tests can also be used to identify eligibility to donate plasma for use as a therapy for patients currently battling COVID-19. Many of the antibody tests commercially available are not accurate enough for clinical use, but Geisinger is actively pursuing more reliable technology with hopes of developing its own antibody testing capabilities.

Dr. Gustaaf De Ridder, Geisinger system director of transfusion services, said, "When a person becomes ill with COVID-19, it can take time to develop the antibodies needed to combat the disease. While some patients can become seriously ill and require the assistance of a ventilator, a large majority of those diagnosed do not become seriously ill. These patients recover and have antibodies in their plasma." 

"By collecting this plasma and giving it to ill patients, we hope we can provide a boost to the patient’s antibodies and help stimulate recovery," Dr. De Ridder added. "This is particularly important in patients who have a suppressed immune system.”

Those with underlying medical conditions who have been exposed to COVID-19 could benefit tremendously from this treatment. Geisinger’s protocol for administering convalescent plasma is grounded in scientific evidence about which patients are most likely to benefit from this therapy and long-standing ethical best practices. Convalescent plasma infusions have been suggested to be most effective during the early stages of illness — and less so if a patient’s condition requires intensive care.

There is limited research concerning the effectiveness of convalescent plasma to treat COVID- 19. However, the data that is available is encouraging. Studies are underway around the world where researchers are investigating outcomes in patients in intensive care units with severe COVID-19 conditions.

As of Friday, April 24, Geisinger said they have treated more than 300 patients in their facilities, with about 100 patients still hospitalized. They have discharged over 180 patients, and 40 have died, according to Dr. Jaewon Ryu, president/CEO of Geisinger.

Who is eligible?

  • You are eligible to donate plasma if you were diagnosed with COVID-19 and have been symptom-free for 28 days.
  • You are eligible if you were diagnosed with COVID-19 have been symptom-free for 14 days and had a negative follow-up test for COVID-19.

The simple donation process takes only 45 minutes of a donor’s time.

How to donate 

Call your doctor or message them through myGeisinger and complete the attestation form that will make sure you are eligible to donate.

If you are not already enrolled in the Geisinger patient portal, you can do so at geisinger.org/mygeisinger. When you have the completed form from your doctor, call our regional blood bank, Miller-Keystone, at 800-B-A-DONOR and make an appointment to give convalescent plasma. You’ll get a reminder call the day before your appointment. Remember to bring the attestation form to your appointment, or you won’t be able to donate.

If you have trouble getting your doctor to complete this form, contact Dr. Gustaaf de Ridder at gderidder@geisinger.edu or 919-452-8976. If you have any other questions, please email dwiest@GiveAPint.org or tbacon@GiveAPint.org.

You can also call or text 484-225-8351 or 610-691-5850, ext. 1279

This story was compiled by an NCPA staff reporter from submitted news. To see a list of our editorial staff please visit our staff directory.