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Critically ill COVID-19 patients now receiving plasma treatments

Posted at 8:46 PM, Apr 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-16 22:27:41-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Spectrum Health is now treating COVID patients with plasma, donated by the virus' survivors. The hospital is working with Versiti Blood Center to provide an additional treatment option to the most severely affected COVID-19 patients.

Last week, recovering patients began donating at Versiti. Among the first wave was 20-year-old Grand Rapids native and University of Michigan student Grace Biermacher.

The antibodies in her blood could hold the key to coronavirus treatment, along with other patients. Medical research has proven COVID-19 survivors are the only patients who now have immunity from the disease. Their antibodies, in turn, could be given to others to fight COVID-19 in their own bodies.

As of Thursday, five patients betwen Blodgett and Butterworth Hospitals have received the plasma treatment. They currently are all being watched by hospital staff, who say their vitals are looking hopeful.

"Patients are still in the hospital under close observation, and it will take time to see how the patient treatment really is," said Dr. Gordana Simeunovic, Infectious Disease Specialist at Spectrum Health.

Throughout history, Dr. Simeunovic described how plasma has always been an option for treatment. Hundreds of years ago, it was first used to treat Spanish flu, mumps, and measles. Modern day medicine, however, made antibiotics and other antivirual treatments more readily available.

Without a vaccine, doctors are once again turning to plasma.

"This will be tremendously valuable in allowing life to eventually return to normal," said President Trump, holding a press conference Thursday night. "There are at least 35 clinical trials underway, including antiviral therapies, immune therapies and blood therapies in the form of convalescent plasma. You’ve all heard about some of these events and some of these therapies. They have come a long way. What’s been done in the last 4 weeks is incredible."

Doctors ask everyone who is recovering from the virus to consider donating. One donor could save at least 4 lives.

"This whole process depends actually on donors," said Dr. Simeunovic. "On our recovered patients that are donating blood. I would like to ask everybody who has recovered from the disease to consider donating blood. It can truly make a big difference."

If you are a recovering COVID-19 patient and would like to donate, Versiti requires patients to be clear of symptoms between 14 and 27 days. You must also produce your positive test result prior to donating.

To visit Versiti’s website to find out more, or to schedule a blood donation, click here. If you would like to contact the team at Spectrum heading this initiative, you can contact them at covid19research@spectrumhealth.org. The team will walk you through the donation process.