Last evening, I got a phone call from a friend asking about plasma for a Covid19 patient. This was a routine for the past few days, as the second wave meant an exponential surge in cases. To search, I started calling different blood banks in Hyderabad. All of them mentioned the grim situation out there. The rise in demand depleted the limited medical resources including plasma reserves. This meant that the new donors are contributing for the current need.
Why Plasma Donation?
You can donate plasma when you test positive for infection, be symptom free for at least 14 days and meet the standard criteria for blood donation. During this period, your blood contains antibodies that fight the virus. Now, when you donate plasma, you’re giving a recipient the power to fight against Covid19.
Historically, plasma therapy is a reliable alternative to treat viral infections. The current research on Covid19 suggests following benefits of plasma therapy -
- A study states that plasma therapy is effective when administered within the first week of symptoms.
- Another study mentions that it reduces hospital stay and addresses lower oxygen levels. This is particularly better as it might curb the need for a ventilator.
- For the critically ill patients, plasma therapy improves clinical condition and decreases mortality rate.
- Research states that significant improvement was noted for the convalescent plasma treatment group compared to controls in the subgroup of patients without life-threatening COVID-19 (91% improvement in the plasma group compared to 68% in the control arm).
- Dr Vishal Rao (Chief of Head & Neck Surgical Oncology & Robotic Surgery at HCG Cancer Centre, Bengaluru) has prescribed plasma therapy to over 1,000 patients and claimed that 60% of them benefited from it.
Why is it important now?
By donating plasma to a person, you are making sure it isn’t fatal and is not causing drastic damage to the patient. While this primary impact itself is worth it, the secondary impact you have on the system is even better. You are potentially saving an oxygen cylinder, an oxygen concentrator, a hospital bed, ventilator, vials of drugs (Remdesivir and Tocilizumab), etc which can help several other patients. Looking forward, this is so crucial as this will reduce at least a fraction of demand for these resources. Though some cases need these resources even after plasma therapy, it reduces the stress on the system. Thus, the entire situation will improve, ultimately reducing the mortality rate.
On top of this, we have a well established network of blood banks. This makes sure that donated plasma reaches out to the recipient smoothly. All we need to do is to take initiative to register at the closest blood bank.
Last weekend, I heard one of the most beautiful stories in this gloomy situation. It was about Mayank Singh, a regular guy from Lucknow. His family tested positive for Covid19 while he tested negative and took care of his family. After their recovery, he wanted to do something that can better the tragic condition. At this point, he came across the news that his idol Sachin Tendulkar asked people to donate plasma for Covid19 patients. To check if he could contribute, he got an antibody test done. And to his surprise, the test concluded he had the antibodies and he donated plasma instantly. On top of this, he wants to donate it again once he’s eligible. This story was very inspiring and how taking an initiative is important in these times.
However I see this situation, at an individual level or at societal level, we must donate plasma once we are eligible. That particular story showed how we can make an incremental positive change in this grim pandemic. After considering the entire situation, the following thought crossed my mind.
“It would be fine even if I won’t get a vaccine because of the higher probability of recovering in my age group. This means that I can donate plasma and be part of the incremental positive change.”
Refer following links for FAQs on Plasma Therapy