Plasma donations contribute to recovery of COVID-19 patients, health experts say

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- It's a sight that is giving hope to many across the country, COVID-19 patients leaving the hospital after recovering from the virus.

While there is no known cure for the illness, two New Jersey patients are recovering thanks in part to an experimental treatment of convalescent plasma from a patient who also recovered from the virus.

"I totally believe that I was meant to get COVID-19 to save my aunt," said Marisa Leuzzi.

Doctors at Virtua Voorhees Hospital said Leuzzi's donation not only helped with her aunt's comeback from the brink, but also with 61-year-old opera singer, Andy Fei, who fought for his life on a ventilator.

"Improvement really started happening maybe 48 to 72 hours after the plasma transfusion," said Dr. Lukasz Polisiakiewicz with Virtua Voorhees.

Under the approval of the FDA, more health care institutions are participating in the treatment, including the ChristianaCare and Blood Back of Delmarva in Delaware.

Alex Palmatier and Aubrie Cresswell are among the first people in the state to donate their plasma after successfully recovering from the virus. The couple suspects they fell ill while overseas.

"Every person counts, really," Palmatier said.

"It's kind of the least that we can do right now," Cresswell said.

Both say they know people close to them that either passed away or are fighting for their lives.

"It feels great. They explained it can help three to four people at a time every time you go in to donate," said Palmatier.

At donation sites like the American Red Cross, donors need to prove they tested positive for the virus, and, depending on the time frame, also prove they've tested negative.

"We don't want to collect this as to give it to a patient who really needs something and have it turn out not to have the antibodies," said Dr. David Moolten, with the American Red Cross.

While there's still much unknown about the treatment, stories like these are proof for many that victory against the virus may be around the corner.

"The early results are encouraging, so we're moving forward. If something better comes along, hooray for that and that'll get used," Moolten said.

Testing for antibodies is something American Red Cross officials are looking into to help expedite donations.

Also, they aren't just looking for plasma, blood donations are also in high demand.

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