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Wis. physician first to donate plasma for COVID-19 patients

A recovered COVID-19 patient donates plasma for a trial of an experimental coronavirus...
A recovered COVID-19 patient donates plasma for a trial of an experimental coronavirus treatment. (Source: Versiti Blood Center of Wisconsin)(NBC15)
Published: Apr. 6, 2020 at 5:54 PM CDT
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The first convalescent plasma donation to help treat COVID-19 patients in the state took place at the Versiti Blood Center of Wisconsin in Milwaukee early on Monday.

Dave Lal, M.D., pediatric oncologist at Children’s Hospital Wisconsin, and professor of pediatric surgery at The Medical College of Wisconsin, was the first to donate.

“I have a unique opportunity to help others,” Dr. Lal said. “Even in my own community, I know people who are really struggling and who are critically sick. So if I can help any one of those people, it would give me much joy.”

Lal tested positive for coronavirus in March and suffered mild symptoms such as fatigue and muscle aches. He was tested for COVID-19 after learning that he was exposed to someone who had tested positive, according to a statement from Versiti Blood Center.

Following hospital practices and CDC guidelines, Lal immediately stopped working and quarantined at home, according to Versiti.

According to Children’s Hospital Wisconsin, more than 100 employees and patients were tested as a result of Dr. Lal’s case. All results were negative.

"Potential donors must first be proven to have had a COVID-19 diagnosis through a positive lab test result, and must then have a negative test result 14 days after recovering from symptoms,” Versiti Senior Medical Director Dan A. Waxman, M.D. said. “It’s a very collaborative effort with our hospital partners who will be working to identify and verify the donors.”

Individuals who have contracted COVID-19 and have fully recovered have developed antibodies to the virus. These antibodies may help patients seriously ill with COVID-19 in their recovery.

The plasma treatment would be used by hospitals for the most severely affected patients. The plasma donations will be provided to hospitals participating in Versiti’s convalescent plasma program. One plasma donation can be used to treat multiple patients, according to Versiti.

The plasma donation process takes 30-40 minutes and is the same as with other plasma donations, using an apheresis machine which separates the blood components.