IOWA — The state of Iowa is running out of doses of one of the most effective treatments for COVID-19 patients, but there are hundreds of thousands of Iowans who could replenish that supply by rolling up their sleeves.
Convalescent plasma taken from the blood of those who’ve recovered from the coronavirus is being given as an experimental therapy to those hospitalized with COVID-19. For many patients it has proven to be one of the most effective at treating the virus, including Iowan Susan Kasperbauer.
Kasperbauer tested positive for the coronavirus in June and was hospitalized after having difficulty breathing. She says her family was told “it could go either way” when she was admitted. After more than a week of suffering, though, things changed when she was given an infusion of convalescent plasma from someone who’d recovered from the virus.
“I remember telling my nurse that I felt so much better afterwards. I felt like my body woke up again after ten days of being in a lot of pain,” Kasperbauer said on Tuesday as she joined Governor Reynolds’ biweekly press conference remotely.
Now that she’s recovered from the coronavirus, Kasperbauer is now a convalescent plasma donor as well. Each pint of plasma she donates can be used to create four doses of treatment for coronavirus patients. Healthcare providers and state officials hope more Iowans will follow her lead and soon.
Christine Hayes, Vice President of Operations for LifeServe Blood Center, says 900 doses of convalescent plasma donations have been delivered to Iowans in the last two weeks. But the pace of donations is not keeping with the need.
“We are anticipating at the current rate of transfusions across Iowa that our supply of convalescent plasma will be depleted by December 1st,” says Hayes. The answer to the supply problem is flowing in the veins of the 191,000 Iowans who’ve recovered from the coronavirus. Hayes, Kasperbauer and Governor Reynolds on Tuesday urged anyone who’s beaten COVID-19 to sign up to donate by contacting LifeServe.
Convalescent plasma treatments can only be derived from willing donations made at a blood center. Plasma that is collected at commercial sites for pay cannot be used. Kasperbauer says it is worth it to give up on a few dollars to instead make a big difference in a fellow Iowan’s life. “You don’t get paid for it but you get to help save someone’s life,” she says.
Even if you haven’t had the coronavirus, your blood donation is always needed, Hayes says. “Being a regular blood donor helps not only the other patients in need of blood but it absolutely can help a COVID-19 patient as well.”
More information about the convalescent plasma donation program can be found on LifeServe’s website.