Plasma donors needed as COVID-19 cases increase

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- As North Carolina grapples with worsening COVID-19 metrics, blood banks are issuing pleas for donors.

"Many (hospitals) are taking action to manage capacity including stopping non-urgent procedures so they can free up staff to take care of COVID patients, opening up additional units, and planning a field hospital in the western part of the state," NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said during a news conference Wednesday.

Besides finding space for patients, hospitals need supplies to adequately treat them, including convalescent plasma.

"We would like to have a stockpile of convalescent plasma ready. We never want our supply to run out," said Ellen Kirtner, with The Blood Connection, which has a center on Glenwood Avenue in Raleigh.

It reports that the demand for convalescent plasma has tripled during the past few months, writing in a recent release, "the need for convalescent plasma continues to far outrun supply."

The Blood Connection works with hospitals in 32 counties in the state, including several in the Triangle including the Durham VA Medical Center, UNC Rex, and three WakeMed locations.

Convalescent plasma therapy involves using the antibodies from an individual who has recovered from COVID-19 to treat an infected person.

"COVID is like a sprinter. It runs a 100-yard dash really, really fast. Blood plasma gives the patient a 50-yard head start, so it lets their immune system catch up and get ahead of the infection," said The Blood Connection Medical Director Dr. Robert Rainer in a statement.

Plasma is also used for non-COVID-19 medical reasons, including for people who have Primary Immunodeficiency and hemophilia.

"It takes an hour of my time, and I know it's going to someone who needs it. It doesn't hurt me, it doesn't harm me; it doesn't take away anything from me. But I'm giving back to someone else," Kirtner said.

Donors must be symptom-free for at least 14 days and bring proof of a positive COVID-19 test or positive COVID-19 antibody test.

ABC 11 Together is partnering with the Red Cross to host a community blood drive. The blood drive runs from 7 AM to 6 PM, Wednesday January 13th. You can donate at the Raleigh Marriott Crabtree or at the Fayetteville Woodpeckers Stadium. Each person who donates will get a free COVID-19 antibody test, a T-shirt, and a $10 Papa John's gift card. To sign up for an appointment, click here.
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