CHOP staffers sign up to donate plasma in fight against coronavirus

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Tuesday, April 21, 2020
Using plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients
Action News Healthcheck reporter Ali Gorman, R.N. answers your questions about the coronavirus pandemic.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- One of the most hopeful treatments being used to treat the critically ill is plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients.

Across the country, blood banks and hospitals are gearing up for it.

While children haven't been as widely affected by COVID-19, the staff at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia are taking an active part in the fight against it.

A number of staffers who had the virus are now donating their blood plasma in hopes it helps patients recover.

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The concept of using the plasma, the liquid portion of the blood, has been around since the 1800s, it's never been scientifically tested.

It's believed antibodies developed by recovering patients will attack the coronavirus.

Chuck Deich, a two-decade veteran in CHOP's technical support, had a fairly mild bout late last month.

Deich has an off and on fever of about 100.7 degrees for several says, then a few days of congestion and a runny nose," almost like I had allergies," he told us.

But he doesn't normally have them.

One unusual symptom was in a wrist afflicted with carpal tunnel syndrome.

"One morning I woke up and I could barely squeeze it or move it," he recalls.

"And it just kind of seem like this virus, it goes to different parts of your body and looks for vulnerability," says Chuck.

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Now, he's happy to do whatever he can to find treatments for those who weren't as lucky.

Chuck expects to donate plasma in the next week.

"This is so new to everybody. I'm just kind of hoping that whether it's me or whether it's somebody else, something that can be found that can really be a long-term solution," he says.

"After the plasma is collected, it's typically frozen down and has a shelf life of about a year. So you could actually have people donate and they can make a bank of a lot of units of plasma," says Dr. David Teachey, an oncologist at Children's Hospital.

Dr. Teachey is working along with other departments on making it possible for CHOP patients to receive plasma.

So far, the hospital has treated one patient with convalescent plasma donated by a hospital staffer.

At least six COVID-19 infected patients have signed up to donate their plasma.

Dr. Teachey says collecting convalescent plasma is a careful, involved process.

"You need somebody who has had COVID-19; they've recovered from COVID-19. And then they have to go to the Red Cross, as they normally would go if they were going to donate blood or platelets or another blood product," he says.

"They have to undergo all the normal testing you would have if you give a blood product, plus all the additional testing for COVID-19 as well," he continues.

Dr. Teachey says plasma has to be matched for blood type, just like whole blood.

But it's worth it to conduct a scientific study to find out if it works.

"Historically, convalescent plasma has made some viruses better and others worse," he notes.


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