Blood, plasma donations needed as COVID-19 pandemic continues

Severe blood shortages reported, residents urged to donate

Blood, plasma donations needed as COVID-19 pandemic continues
Blood, plasma donations needed as COVID-19 pandemic continues

DETROIT – The American Red Cross cross has faced many challenges trying to collect sufficient blood in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aug. 19, 2020: Michigan coronavirus (COVID-19) cases up to 94,278; Death toll now at 6,349

Those challenges will continue into the fall as colleges and high schools holding virtual classes won’t be hosting their usual blood drives.

The need for blood is constant -- it’s lifesaving for cancer patients, accident victims, people undergoing surgery and countless others.

More recently, blood from COVID-19 survivors have been tested as a treatment to help those battling coronavirus in the form of convalescent plasma, but to meet the needs of patients, a steady supply of donors is needed.

COVID-19 hit the Myles family hard. It infected four members and sent their father to the hospital.

“It got to a point where I could not maintain my oxygen level on my own,” Franklin Myles said.

Once he recovered, he rolled up his sleeve to donate convalescent plasma. Plasma -- the liquid portion of blood -- is rich in proteins and antibodies. It’s been used to treat other outbreaks including SARS, MERS and Ebola.

“It is believed that plasma contains part of the survivor’s immune system,” said Dr. Eric Gehrie. “That can be used to help somebody who is currently sick with COVID-19 to recover more quickly.”

Clinical trials are still underway to determine how effective convalescent plasma might be. The FDA has put off issuing an emergency use authorization and are waiting for more results.

Recent data suggests it may be more beneficial when given within three days of diagnosis.

But as coronavirus cases in numerous states have spiked, the American Red Cross has seen hospital demand for convalescent plasma surge.

“We are depleting our COVID-19 plasma inventory faster than we can replace it,” said Dr. Pampee Young, Chief Medical Officer with the American Red Cross.

The organization has issued an urgent plea for survivors like Franklin Myles, who wants to do all he can to potentially help other patients.

“I’m getting ready to schedule my fourth donation,” Myles said.

Gardner-White stores are chipping in to help with a blood drive Thursday and Friday. It will be appointment only to encourage social distancing.

Appointments are available Thursday between 11 a.m.-4:45 p.m at Gardner-White stores in Warren, Auburn Hills, Macomb, Ann Arbor Novi and Canton. Masks are required.

Appointments are available Friday between 11 a.m.-4:45 p.m at Gardner-White stores in Warren, Macomb, Auburn Hills and Ann Arbor.

To sign up for an appointment, or for more information, visit the official American Red Cross website here.

All presenting donors will receive a coupon for $50 toward a Gardner-White purchase of $399 or moreand will be entered to win a $500 Gardner-White Gift Certificate.

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