MILWAUKEE — On Monday, for the first time, a Versiti Blood Center collected plasma from a coronavirus survivor. The donation took place at their facility in Milwaukee, and the hope is that it could help those fighting the infection.
Dr. Dave Lal, a pediatric surgeon at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, tested positive for COVID-19, a few weeks ago.
"I felt fine, but then I developed some just muscle aches and just was tired," Dr. Lal said. He recently traveled out-of-state and learned someone he was exposed to on that trip tested positive for the virus. He assumes he contracted it during this time.
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"The worst of it was just worrying that maybe I unwillingly infected some of my patients or families and colleagues," Dr. Lal said.
Per protocol, he isolated for 14 days until last Monday, when he received a negative test.
Dr. Lal then looked into the possibility of donating his plasma as a part of the experimental treatment approved by the FDA.
Dr. Thomas Abshire of Versiti said it's a process of transferring the antibodies that fight COVID-19 from those who have recovered, to patients who are seriously ill with the virus.
"The FDA about a couple of weeks back allowed for emergency approval to be able to treat patients who were sick in the hospital with a plasma infusion," Dr. Abshire said.
Versiti also worked with the Medical College of Wisconsin to get research approval to draw the donors.
The treatment still in the investigational phase, but it's been used with past infections like Ebola. It's also been used with a few coronavirus patients in China.
"We'll be determining based on what the hospital says which patients need it the most," Dr. Abshire said.
Dr. Lal's donations could help two to three people, and as the number of positive cases continues to grow, he feels other survivors will also want to donate and do the same.
"If I have something in my body that could help someone else, why wouldn't I?" Dr. Lal said.
According to the FDA's guidelines, to donate your plasma, you first have to show that you tested positive for the coronavirus. Then, you have to prove that you have recovered, both by not showing any symptoms and by testing negative for the virus.
Right now, they're cautious with donors. You can donate if you have been symptom-free for two weeks and then test negative, or if you have been symptom-free for four weeks. These qualifications consider the availability of testing.
Medical professionals and physicians will have to refer you to Versiti to donate.
It's also important to note that there is still a critical shortage of blood. Health providers encourage you to donate if you can.