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Plasma transfusions having positive results on COVID-19

Posted at 11:32 AM, Apr 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-23 11:32:38-04

INDIANAPOLIS — A central Indiana pediatrician has recovered from COVID-19 and is doing well.

Now, he and many others are being asked to donate their blood plasma to help find treatment.

Doctors say the work is promising, but it will take time to see whether it will pay off.

Before you donate plasma, you have to be symptom-free for at least 28 days, so doctors are hoping this week's plasma donations will ramp up.

"I had a little bit of a sore throat, and I developed a very minimal cough that lasted about a week, and I was just a little fatigued," Dr. Richard Keller, a pediatrician at IU Health, said.

Dr. Keller said he started having symptoms of COVID-19 on March 10, as he had a sore throat, mild cough, and eventually lost his sense of smell.

"I wasn't diagnosed for another two weeks, so I had it very early on," Dr. Keller said.

This week marked 28 days of being symptom-free for Dr. Keller, so he made a trip to the Indiana Blood Center to donate his plasma, filled with antibodies to fight the coronavirus.

"They put an IV in, that's the worst part, and it takes about 45 minutes," Dr. Keller said, explaining the process. "You know they take the blood out, they separate the plasma, and then they give you your blood back."

Then the plasma is transported to an area hospital to treat patients suffering from the disease. This method has been used on four patients so far at IU Health, and Dr. Nicholas Barros says it seems to be working.

"The patients that received the plasma last week ... I think they are getting much better. One of them was extubated yesterday after being in the ventilator for over a week," Dr. Barros said.

Dr. Barros said they couldn't know for sure that the plasma transfusion is the sole reason the patients are getting better because other treatment methods were also being used. But he says trends across the country are showing this method works. And it allows survivors to lend a hand.

"It allows the community an opportunity to participate in providing help and unite us all as you know we are all here in the fight together," Dr. Barros said.

Dr. Barros said no matter where you donate or what portal you go through to sign up, the plasma is being dispersed across the state to hospitals that need it.