‘Some people have described it as a miracle:’ Community blood center aiding in hopeful pandemic-ending testing

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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — The fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and now the rising Delta variant is gaining help from organizations across the nation. Now, The Blood Connection in North Carolina is working to help relieve hospitals of some of their stress.

It comes down to what is called convalescent plasma, which is the key here. Representatives from The Blood Connection say when patients suffering from COVID-19 infection receive this plasma, it can turn their entire journey around.

“Some people have described it as a miracle,” said Ellen Kirtner with The Blood Connection.

A miracle coming from the pandemic is something many thought they’d never hear. However, doctors are finding a way to make those who have gotten the COVID-19 virus useful to those currently battling the infection.

“With the antibody testing we are basically looking for the presence of immunity and there are two ways to get immunity, one is through getting the vaccination and the other way is getting exposed to the virus,” said Dr. Robert Rainer, Medical Director for “The Blood Connection.”

Individuals who have been exposed to the virus contain what is called convalescent plasma. It can be used in treatments for those who may be critically ill from the virus.

“The best way I can express this is that you are in a 100-yard dash with the COVID infection and essentially COVID is a world-class sprinter, it just outruns everything,” said Dr. Rainer. “So, what we do with this convalescent plasma is we give you a 50-yard head start.”

Doctor Robert Rainer, Health Director for The Blood Connection states, “Not only can this infusion treatment help individuals, but it can also help hospitals altogether.”

“The hospitals themselves have actually helped us identify patients,” said Dr. Rainer.

Once a patient is identified as possibly having the needed antibodies, the two can work together to hopefully bring them in to donate convalescent plasma. It can help prevent ICU visits or even help patients avoid a ventilator.

“When somebody is showing signs of respiratory failure where they need to go on a ventilator, we are able to do this and prevent that from happening,” said Dr. Rainer.

Overall, representatives with TBC say it goes deeper than just giving blood.

“We are the community health center so when you are donating with The Blood Connection, you’re potentially helping a neighbor,” said Kirtner.

Doctor Rainer says they take between three and four doses when collecting the plasma, this can potentially help up to three or four patients.

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