South Carolinians who have recovered from the coronavirus donate plasma to help severely-ill patients

Updated: Apr. 18, 2020 at 5:07 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Flonnie West said she has never been a fan of donating blood.

But Friday morning, she was at a blood drive.

She didn't even think twice about showing up. "Why would you not want to save some one's life?" she said before she got on a bus with staff from The Blood Connection.

West is one of the many South Carolinians who have recovered from the coronavirus. She said she never showed symptoms while she had it, but her family had to keep their distance to avoid any possible spread.

They even had to stay away during one of the hardest times in her life.

In March, her husband Jack West, a well-known lobbyist, died of complications from the coronavirus. Flonnie said one of the worst parts of the death of her husband was knowing he died alone. She also said since she was positive with COVID-19, no one could give her that hug she sorely needed at the time. "They couldn't come inside the house so I was there alone when he died."

RELATED STORY Ι Jack West, son of late S.C. governor John West, dies after contracting coronavirus

Flonnie said these last few weeks have felt very gloomy. There is a ray of hope.

She was one of the eight South Carolinians who donated their blood plasma Friday during a blood drive held by Prisma Health and The Blood Connection. Flonnie said when she found she could be carrying antibodies that could help save someone's life - she jumped at the opportunity to help.

"That's why I'm here today -- I don't want anybody going through what I did," she said.

According to Prisma Health, they are taking part in a new, nationwide trial. They are testing the effect plasma from recovered coronavirus patients could have on severe or critically ill patients with the coronavirus.

The treatment is made with the antibodies in donated plasma. That is made into a serum and given to approved patients within a day.

To take part in this, recovered patients have to be eligible to donate blood and be symptom-free for 28 days.

Dr. Robert Rainer is the Medical Director for the Blood Connection and a blood bank pathologist for Prisma Health in the Upstate.

He said the convalescent plasma is a 'gift'. "I can't make these antibodies only people can make these antibodies. There's no other source than people willingly doing this."

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Doctor Helmut Albrecht with Prisma Health in the Midlands said this is the most promising treatment approach they've seen so far. "The first patient actually recovered pretty remarkably in our unit. We're hoping to do more of this."

According to doctors, the blood plasma Flonnie donated Friday could help up to four people. She said she hopes more take part in this effort. "Nothing worked for Jack, but this is working for other people so I beg them to do this."

Officials said they are hoping to hold another blood drive in Kershaw County.

If you have recovered from COVID-19 and wish to donate, please contact The Blood Connection (864)-751-1168 to make an appointment. The Blood Connection is based in the Upstate area. In addition, donation times and locations will be scheduled in the Midlands-based on the number of interested donors who meet the criteria.

Positive test documentation/results can include the following:

  • A copy of the donor lab results showing a positive test for COVID-19 which shows the date of the positive test.
  • A document from their healthcare provider stating that the donor had a positive test for COVID-19 and the date of the positive test. This document must be on the letter­head or prescription pad of the healthcare provider and must be signed and dated by the healthcare provider.

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