SPRINGFIELD — Actors Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson have done it. So have several NBA players and singer Andrea Bocelli.
They have all donated convalescent plasma to help in the fight against COVID-19. Now, you may be able to donate your convalescent plasma locally at Baystate Medical Center.
“Baystate is pleased to announce the initiation of a new aspect to its Blood Donor Center operations joining with hospitals nationwide in seeking plasma donations from recovered COVID-19 patients. This new program initiative, termed ‘Hemotherapy Heroes,’ recognizes the important role these patient donors play in treatment efforts to combat the pandemic. Their plasma may help save the life of someone fighting desperately to recover from this deadly novel coronavirus infection,” said Dr. Chester Andrzejewski, medical director of System Blood Banking and Transfusion Medicine Services at Baystate Health.
More than 130 patient donors, who have recovered from their COVID-19 viral illness, have already reached out to Baystate’s Blood Donor Center to donate their convalescent plasma.
“The desire to help others after recovering from this debilitating virus is very important to these patient donors, and their compassion in the face of their recent, sometimes severe, illness is very gratifying to see,” said Lynne O’Hearn, transfusion safety officer at Baystate Health.
Convalescent plasma is the liquid part of blood that is collected from patients who have recovered from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. COVID-19 patients develop antibodies in the blood against the virus. Antibodies are proteins that might help fight the infection. Convalescent plasma is being investigated for the treatment of COVID-19 because there is no approved treatment for the disease, and there is information that suggests it might help some patients recover from COVID-19.
If you have had COVID-19 and are fully recovered, you may be able to help save the lives of other COVID-19 patients by donating your plasma. Your plasma now contains COVID-19 antibodies. These antibodies helped your immune system to defeat the virus when you were sick, which means that your plasma may be able to help others who are now infected with the disease.
To qualify, you must be able to meet routine blood-donation eligibility requirements, have a prior COVID-19 diagnosis documented by a laboratory test, be fully recovered for at least 28 days, and be willing to authorize Baystate Health access to your medical record for the purpose of determining your eligibility for COVID-19 convalescent plasma donation.
Those who meet the requirements and want to donate their plasma can fill out a plasma-donation data form by clicking here to begin the evaluation process.
If you haven’t had COVID-19 and still want to help, you can consider donating blood.
A single whole blood donation at Baystate Medical Center can save up to two lives. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented challenges to the U.S. blood supply. Donor centers have experienced a dramatic reduction in donations due to the implementation of social distancing and the cancellation of blood drives. Blood is needed every day to provide life-saving treatments to patients with a variety of medical and surgical conditions.
“We are grateful to everyone who has shown up to donate blood at our Blood Donor Center during the COVID-19 pandemic, and can’t stress enough the continued need for blood and platelet donations even as shelter-in-place restrictions are slowly being lifted in the community,” said Amy Khalil, Baystate Health’s blood-donor recruiter.
During the pandemic crisis, Baystate Health has relocated its blood donation operations to 361 Whitney Ave. in Holyoke. The Blood Donor Center is open Monday and Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from noon to 8 p.m.; Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; and Sunday from 8 a.m. to noon. Walk-ins are welcome, but appointments are given priority and can be made by calling (413) 794-4600. However, platelet donations at Whitney Avenue are scheduled by appointment only.
Those donating whole blood must be in good health, be at least 17 years of age, and weigh at least 110 pounds. Per the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), whole-blood donors should refrain from blood donations for 14 days if they have had any symptoms of COVID-19 or have had a positive diagnostic test (nasal swab test) for COVID-19.
Additional protocols implemented during the coronavirus pandemic for the safety and health of blood donors include pre-screening donors prior to their entering the Blood Donor Center, extra precautionary cleaning of equipment and work spaces, and increased physical distancing between donors to comply with social-distancing and group-gathering restrictions.
For more information, contact the Baystate Health Blood Donor Center at (413) 794-4600 with questions or to make an appointment, or visit the Blood Donor Program at www.baystatehealth.org/services/blood-donor.