By Sue Wilson, American Red Cross volunteer
August 28, 2020- You may have heard the term “convalescent plasma” as a potential treatment for COVID-19 (coronavirus) and are curious about it.
Simply put, convalescent plasma comes from patients who have recovered from the coronavirus. Plasma is the part of blood that remains after red and white blood cells are removed. It is rich in proteins and antibodies. Hospitals and research labs around the country are working to see if these antibodies can help the immune system fight COVID-19.
The American Red Cross has been collecting convalescent plasma from donors throughout the country who have recovered from COVID-19 for months. But this week, the FDA issued an Emergency Use Authorization for convalescent plasma as a treatment for COVID-19 research.
In Northeast Ohio, husband and wife Ron and Elinor Baumberger are answering the call to donate convalescent plasma after they both recovered from COVID-19. Ron donated this past Friday, and Elinor plans to donate next week.
Ron is no stranger to serving his community. Upon his retirement in 2013 after 32 years with Sherwin-Williams, he immediately joined the Red Cross volunteer team as a Disaster Action Team member and is now the Region Logistics Lead. During his time with the Red Cross, Ron has responded to over 200 local fires, flooding, helped at shelters and warming centers, and provided a host of other services. It’s no surprise that after years of donating his time and talent to the Red Cross, that when he and his wife Elinor came down with COVID-19, they would also want to donate their plasma once fully recovered.
Ron considers himself lucky that he and his wife both had mild cases of COVID-19 that did not require hospitalization. They believe Elinor contracted the virus in January before it became widely known in the medical community. In June, the Red Cross began testing donated blood for COVID-19 antibodies. In July, Elinor donated blood, which tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies.
In May, Ron came down with symptoms similar to Elinor’s. “I thought I was suffering from allergies or a sinus infection,” said Ron. “I found out I was exposed (through Elinore) to COVID-19 and started to identify my symptoms as fatigue, a minor sore throat, and loss of taste and smell.” His test came back positive. “Elinor had a worse case of it. But now, we have fully recovered with no post-illness symptoms.”
“The donation process was quite simple,” Ron explained. “I registered from home, received a phone call to qualify me, selected my time and date, and the rest is history!”
Ron said the entire process took about 90 minutes. “They explained the process, hooked me up and away we went! They continued to check on me periodically and answered any questions I had.”
The Red Cross supplies close to 40% of the nation’s blood supply and is always in need of donors, but the pandemic has made the need especially dire. To learn more about blood donation or to find a blood drive or donation center near you, click HERE. The Red Cross is testing all blood donations for COVID-19 antibodies, and if your blood tests positive you may have the unique opportunity to help patients fighting the disease. Click here to learn more about convalescent plasma donations.
“The donation process on-site was effortless for me and hopefully, my plasma will help others,” said Ron.
Those who have received a verified COVID-19 diagnosis, have fully recovered and have been symptom free for at least 14 days are urged to sign up to give convalescent plasma by completing the donor information form HERE.