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St. Mary Medical Center screens for plasma donation; recovered COVID-19 patients’ antibodies may save lives

APPLE VALLEY (April 29, 2020) – St. Mary Medical Center has established the only plasma screening program in the High Desert, and will help coordinate donations of the blood derivative.

Donors are those who have recovered from COVID-19 and their plasma is being used as a tool in treatment for patients critically ill with the virus.

“Researchers across the globe are quickly looking for viable care options to kill this novel virus and we are proud to be a part of this promising process,” Chief Executive Randall Castillo said. “Eventually, we will beat this pandemic through innovative treatment and continued social responsibility.”

The plasma contains donor antibodies and through transfusion, fights the virus in patients still battling the disease. This is an experimental treatment and is reserved primarily for the sickest patients who have exhausted other medical options.

Historically, plasma from those who have recovered from infection has been used as a potentially lifesaving treatment when new diseases or infections develop quickly, and no treatments or vaccines were available.

St. Mary’s screening program is aligned with a study led by the Mayo Clinic and titled “Expanded Access to Convalescent Plasma for the Treatment of Patients with COVID-19.”

The Apple Valley hospital will refer those who qualify as donors to LifeStream Blood Bank, which will extract the plasma. LifeStream will return up to half the plasma from first-time donors to the hospital for treatment of COVID-19 patients who meet the study criteria. The remainder of the plasma will be available to area hospitals in need.

“Though convalescent plasma has not been fully proven to be effective in patients with COVID-19, there are encouraging signs from early studies,” said Joe Chaffin, MD, LifeStream Blood Bank’s chief medical officer. “By collecting this product, LifeStream is proud to help hospitals develop better understanding of the use of convalescent plasma for patients in desperate need.”

LifeStream’s San Bernardino Donor Center is expected to have their first donor on Friday.

Donors are eligible if:

·       There is documented evidence they have been infected with COVID-19.

·       They have been symptom free at least four weeks or symptom free at least two weeks and subsequently test negative for the virus.

Anyone who is interested in donating is asked to call the hospital at 760 242-2311, Ext. 8361, and leave a message with contact information. Calls will be returned Monday through Friday.

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