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Beaumont surgeon donates plasma in search for COVID-19 cure

An experimental therapy called convalescent plasma gives people who have recovered from the virus a way to help those still fighting.

BEAUMONT, Texas — The race to find a cure for COVID-19 could be in the form of donation. 

An experimental therapy called convalescent plasma gives people who have recovered from the virus a way to help those still fighting. COVID-19 has impacted all of us, but especially those who physically have had the virus. It's not something you wish for, but having it could be the key to saving a life. 

All across the county, convalescent plasma donation is taking place.

12News spoke with the first person in Beaumont to participate, a surgeon. Dr. Linda Bergal from the Southeast Texas Surgical Association explained how the donation process works.

"Obviously, we are in the ICU, and we see the people who are not recovering," Bergal said. 

She said she has seen firsthand how serious this virus can be. 

"We hear about the plasma, but getting it to Beaumont is pretty hard, so we have to generate our own," Bergal said. 

Donating plasma is similar to donating blood, but takes a little longer.

"It's very similar, we're going to ask all the same questions and do all the same preliminary health screenings,"  account manager Tiffany Ybarra said. 

The LifeShare Blood Center in Beaumont saw their first donor come through the doors on Wednesday, April 22, Ybarra said.

LifeShare, a company that also has facilities in Louisiana, began these donations just a few weeks ago. The FDA considers convalescent plasma donation an experimental therapy. It works using antibodies. 

"Those antibodies that the recovered person has are directed against that COVID-19 virus and can help them recover," Ybarra said. 

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Not everyone who has recovered donate right away because a certain amount of time has to pass. 

"Be recovered at least two weeks and have a negative test result," Ybarra said. "Or you could be recovered four weeks, so four weeks since your last symptom." 

Luckily for Dr. Bergal, she was an asymptomatic COVID-19 case. 

"Can't really remember having any symptoms at all,' she said.

The atmosphere inside Beaumont hospitals right now is a somber one and nothing like she's ever seen before, she said. 

"It's been strange, very quite. People walking around with their heads down in masks and nobody talks," she said. 

The uncertainty of a surge with this virus still lingers, but now there is hope, thanks to the people who have beat it — a connection brought together through an unimaginable virus. But these donations are giving hope for those still fighting their own way to recovery and providing a way to make a difference as more and more people recover. 

"We hope so, we hope that once people are aware that we're doing this here that they will reach out and contact us," Ybarra said.

Although still experimental and a new treatment, these donations have already shown promise throughout the U.S. So far in Southeast Texas, more than 100 people have recovered from COVID-19. 

To learn more about donating, contact LifeShare Blood Center.

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