The Plasma Promise: Frontline Workers Who Beat COVID Donate Plasma to Help Others
You may have heard the term “convalescent plasma therapy” as a new coronavirus buzzword, but doctors have been using it to treat infectious diseases for nearly a century, including during previous pandemics. What exactly is convalescent plasma? Well, 55% of our blood is plasma. It’s the liquid part of blood collected from patients who have recovered from COVID-19. These patients develop antibodies to the virus that might help fight the infection – especially if given to critically ill COVID-19 patients early in the process.
EMS Medical Director at Orange County Government and Practicing Emergency Medicine physician at Orlando Health Dr. Christian Zuver knows firsthand the gift of blood is essential … now more than ever. Zuver oversees over 2,000 EMS and 911 personnel in the Orange County EMS System including those at Orange County Fire Rescue.
In his job, he sees first responders and healthcare workers giving their all every day to help the community in its fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Many of these frontline workers who have recovered from COVID-19 – including Dr. Zuver – are doing even more by becoming convalescent plasma donors themselves.
“Initially when I got sick, I thought it was bad allergy symptoms, but when there was a prolonged cough and it felt flu-like, it was COVID,” said Zuver. “I was sure to follow precautionary guidelines and self-isolate from my family, my work and all others – and luckily recovered. But I knew I wanted to give back.”
Zuver did just that and recently donated his plasma at OneBlood, which has a need for both plasma and regular blood donations. The pandemic has significantly disrupted OneBlood’s traditional model for collecting blood. Many of the places where you would normally see blood drives – like high schools, college campuses and companies – are not at a point where they can host regular blood drives.
“There’s a finite group of people, like Dr. Zuver, who even have the ability to donate convalescent plasma, and those are the people we are asking to please step forward and donate,” said Susan Forbes, senior vice president of corporate communications and public relations for OneBlood. “But we also have an urgent need for more people to donate blood to ensure a ready blood supply in our Orange County community and throughout our service area.”
Patients with COVID-19 may improve faster if they receive plasma from those who have recovered from COVID-19, because it can help boost their immune system and aid in their recovery.
“We’ve seen the case reports and the stories from our hospitals,” said Zuver. “Convalescent plasma is not necessarily the life-saving bullet against COVID-19, but it’s potentially one of the tools in our arsenal and there is a subset of people who have recovered when given plasma.”
The plasma donation process takes less than an hour. It is an hour well spent considering the gift of potential life it may give. Regular blood donations take significantly less time – about 20 minutes.
“We live in a caring community and donating convalescent plasma is just one of those ways we can continue to help each other,” added Zuver.
To donate convalescent plasma or blood, make an online appointment at OneBlood.org.
See more on Dr. Zuver’s convalescent plasma donation experience here: https://www.oneblood.org/i-am-oneblood/video-gallery.stml
Photo Caption: Orange County EMS Medical Director Dr. Christian Zuver donates convalescent plasma at OneBlood.