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COVID-19 survivors donating plasma to help patients battling the virus

LifeShare Blood Center in Beaumont held a plasma donation drive Friday to raise awareness about saving lives with convalescent plasma.

BEAUMONT, Texas — Hospitals across the nation are asking for plasma donations from people who have recovered from coronavirus.

LifeShare Blood Center in Beaumont held a plasma donation drive Friday to raise awareness about saving lives with convalescent plasma.

One Navy veteran who recovered from the virus said donating is not only simple and painless, but it's also an easy way to help strangers.

“I want to help patients going through it because it was terrible," said 29-year-old Heather Parker.

Her symptoms started in February after she moved from Washington state to Texas.

“At first, it was just some breathing issues. I thought it was just my asthma acting up. It felt like the flu after that,” Parker said.

She has severe asthma, an underlying health issue, which health officials say can make the effects of the coronavirus more severe.

By early April, Parker said her symptoms had worsened.

“It just got worse and worse to the point where I was just in bed gasping for air. It felt like I was drowning at its worst point,” Parker said.

Unlike Parker, some people infected show mild or no symptoms at all.

“My wife and I had the virus at the same time. We had mild cases of it, and we were very fortunate,” said 75-year-old plasma donor Chuck MacKenzie.

He said he doesn’t have any underlying health issues, and the course of his virus lasted less than two weeks.

As soon as MacKenzie was “COVID-free,” he figured out a way to donate plasma. “I highly recommend it. I haven't given blood in 45-50 years. I feel good about it; I really do,” he said.

Convalescent plasma helps those who have not yet recovered from the virus. 

“We are actually giving patients plasma infused with antibodies from those who are recovered from this devastating illness to shorten their course,” said Baptist Hospitals of Southeast Texas Vice President of Operations Todd Senters.

“One single donor, depending on the volume that is collected, will typically provide enough for two units of plasma. That could potentially help as many as two patients,” Senters said.

LifeShare had ten people volunteer to give convalescent plasma Friday. Anyone can donate, but there are requirements each donor must meet before dropping in for an appointment.

The LifeShare Blood Center is working with hospitals in the Beaumont area to screen potential donors.

In order to donate convalescent plasma, donors:

1. Must have documentation of a positive COVID-19 diagnosis 

2. Must have fully recovered from COVID-19 with no symptoms for at least 14 days before the donation.

3. If you didn't test positive for the virus, you can test for antibodies in your blood. If those antibodies are positive, you can donate.

4. Must meet all existing donor eligibility requirements

If you or someone you know would like to donate, the number to call is (409) 212-5979. A specialist will be able to schedule an appointment for plasma donation.

“It's really scary and it feels like you're not going to get through it, but you will. Just have faith in what your doctors are telling you,” Parker said. “Do what they tell you to do. Stay in bed you will get better. Most people do recover, so it's just a matter of waiting it out, even if you feel like you're dying.”

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