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Ascension St. Vincent streamlines plasma donor process for COVID-19

Posted at 9:25 PM, May 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-05 23:34:01-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Doctors with Ascension St. Vincent said expanded coronavirus testing could play a major role in identifying people who qualify to donate plasma, which could help others battling COVID-19.

The hospital is working to streamline the donation process to hopefully save Hoosier lives.

"We had actually thought that we had lost him just because he had never had low heart rate before so we really were uncertain of what was going to happen," Genius Chaudry said.

It is a frightening reality for many families battling COVID-19. Chaudry and her family were losing hope that her 73-year-old dad, Subhash Chaudry, would survive the virus. The Indianapolis grandfather is being treated at Ascension St. Vincent in Indianapolis, where doctors are trying to get their coronavirus patients plasma transfusions as a life-saving measure.

"He was not doing well," Chaudry said. "We are so helpless and we try to do what we can and our only option I think was the plasma for him."

Dr. Emma Hegwood and Dr. Mark Bochan prepared a clinical trial in just one week to find people that meet the criteria for plasma donors to help fight the virus in their critical patients.

"You don't know which way you are going to go if you have this infection and you have shortness of breath and you have declining pulmonary status, so the sooner we can get things on board, the faster they are going to work," Bochan said.

To effectively treat patients, the plasma has to come from someone who has survived COVID-19. But, because it is considered an investigational treatment, donors have to meet a very specific set of criteria.

Donors must have had the disease and been asymptomatic for 28 days. In certain circumstances, they can donate earlier than that if they have been symptom free for 15 to 28 days and test negative.

So far, access to testing has been a hurdle for doctors trying to check all those criteria.

"Somebody could try to find a way to donate, but they don't have all the pieces. And that is what we are trying to facilitate here," Hegwood said. "We are just hoping that we can really get the word out and be part of the big solution if you will across both regionally and the United States, being a solution for our patients."

Ascension St. Vincent has set up a website to speed up the process for COVID-19 survivors who want to donate their plasma.

DONATE | COVID-19 plasma donation at Ascension St. Vincent

"Right now, it is the only thing we feel can make a difference in the outcomes, at least our team thinks that very strongly," Bochan said. "And we know that it is something that people have survived can do."

Thanks to a plasma donation, Subhash Chaudry continues his fight towards recovery, in hopes of returning home soon to his family.

"I mean it can save somebody's life, especially for those who don't have any other option," Genius Chaudry said. "We are so grateful there was a donor we are grateful that he was able to get it. He continues to show improvement. We just hope and pray that he continues to get better."

Bochan says it is important to note plasma donations can be frozen and saved for up to one year.