Recovered COVID-19 patients donate blood plasma to help others in ICU

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Fifty-year-old Sean Ramrattan is among 15 persons who have successfully recovered from COVID-19 in Guyana. And he is among those who have opted to donate blood to help others fight the disease.

He visited the National Blood Bank on Tuesday to donate plasma – a part of the blood which contains those antibodies developed by his body to fight off the disease – could be used.

“This doesn’t have creed, colour, race or anything, I am just doing it because I feel it’s beneficial to the world, to help my fellow citizens along the line,” he told the News Room as he made the donation on Tuesday at the National Blood Bank.

Ramrattan operates the RRT Enterprise on Regent Street, Georgetown.

 “…anybody could get it, the rich, the poor,” he added.

Sean Ramrattan making his donation

The Ministry of Public Health has started transfusing plasma from the blood of persons who have recovered from COVID-19 disease to persons who are severely ill. The process which is on trial in other parts of the world is called Convalescent Plasma Therapy.

The idea is that since recovery means a person was able to successfully fight off the novel coronavirus, antibodies in their blood could well work on patients who currently have the disease.

Plasma is the largest component of human blood and contains water, salts, enzymes, antibodies and other proteins.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer. Dr. Karen Gordon Boyle on Monday said approval was sought from the Pan American Health Organisation and Guyana has received the protocols to start the treatment.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr. Karen Gordon

The National Blood Transfusion service has already collected blood from others who have recovered from the disease.

Ramrattan was the fifth donor. He returned from the United States of America on February 26 and developed symptoms of the disease one month later; those symptoms including dry cough, severe fever and difficulty breathing lasted for a brief period.

The 50-year-old man was tested positive on April 9 after which he spent 14 days in isolation without any further symptoms.

To donate the plasma, you have to be tested negative twice, which is the protocol used by the Ministry to release recovered patients.

Ramrattan was tested negative twice and released last week from isolation at the Diamond hospital on the East Bank of Demerara.

Director of the National Blood Transfusion Service, Dr. Pedro Lewis, explained that the patients undergo similar interview to normal donors to ensure they are also free of any other disease.

He explained the process of retrieving the plasma from those patients which can either be done using the Apheresis technology acquired by the blood bank in 2018 or the whole blood can be collected.

Director of the National Blood Transfusion Service, Dr. Pedro Lewis

In the first option, the Apheresis technology withdraws just the plasma from the patient and returns the other blood cells.

 Those blood cells are returned to the patient “with normal saline and an anti-covalent that is widely used in the apheresis technology that is citrate that is mixed with calcium and it gives the anticoagulation properties.”

If the whole blood is collected, the laboratory technicians centrifuge the blood and obtain the plasma. Thereafter, the red blood cells are discarded.

Like regular blood donations, the patients receiving the transfusion have to possess the same blood group to be a recipient.

But Dr. Pedro said it is being noticed in the Latin American Countries and Guyana that there are less recovered patients with blood group A.

“…out of all of the patients who recovered from COVID-19, we have not gotten an A+ person or an A group to donate the plasma,” he noted.

The treatment has been approved as a trial by the World Health Organisation and the US Food and Drug Administration as the sample size to determine its effectiveness is not large enough to declare it as a treatment for COVID-19.

The Blood transfusion unit is calling on more persons to come forward to donate their plasma to help critical COVID-19 patients.

Those persons in need of the transfusion will have to agree to the process either by signing a form or have their relatives do so.

As of April 28, the Ministry reported that there are five persons in the COVID-19 ICU.

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