Donating plasma a way to join fight against COVID-19

Molly Redinger of Burrton takes a selfie with the bags of plasma she donated, last week. She said it was a small sacrifice to make to help save lives.

By Jared Janzen

BURRTON—If you’re looking for a way to help people battling for their lives against COVID-19, donating plasma may be for you.

The American Red Cross continues to seek individuals who are fully recovered from a verified COVID-19 diagnosis to donate plasma, which may contain antibodies that can be used to treat others currently ill with COVID-19.

Molly Redinger of Burrton decided to help in this fashion.

“I kind of just stumbled across it and thought, ‘well, that’s something I can do,’” she said.

Plasma is the liquid portion of blood, which helps with clotting and supports immunity, according to the Red Cross website. Donating plasma is a more involved process than donating regular red blood cells, as Redinger found out.

“I’m a regular blood donor, so that doesn’t really bother me,” she said. “I knew that plasma was one more step or one more way that I could help, but I’ve just never really taken the initiative. It takes longer than a blood donation, so you have to plan it out a little more.”

She made her plasma donation at the American Red Cross in Wichita, last Thursday afternoon. The bloodmobile that travels around to different cities doesn’t do plasma donations.

One difference Redinger noticed between donating plasma and donating red blood cells was that both of her arms were hooked up to the machine, one to remove the blood and one to return it once the plasma had been extracted.

“You do get cold,” Redinger said. “They cover you in warm, heated blankets. The saline that they put back into you is like 74 degrees, below your body temperature. So, that’s why you get so cold. But, it’s not bad. It’s not uncomfortable.”

The process took about two-and-a-half hours from start to finish for Redinger, an hour-and-a-half of which she was hooked to the machine. She said she had her own TV to watch during the donation.

Redinger’s personal experience with COVID-19 was in mid-December, but she said she only had mild symptoms. It was after her brother experienced more severe complications that she decided she wanted to do more to help others in their fight.

“I think what inspired me to do it now is that my brother got COVID and he had a stroke from it,” she said. “That gave me a little more of a push to give, if it can help other people.”

He’s now recovering at a hospital in Nebraska, she added.

Redinger said the Red Cross had told her that they’d seen a lot of people donate plasma early on in the pandemic, but now that people are getting vaccinated, that number has dropped. She said people who’ve had the COVID-19 vaccine can’t give plasma. Three others were donating plasma on the afternoon that she did.

Those who wish to donate convalescent plasma must be in general good health, must have tested positive for COVID-19 and be fully recovered, be at least 17 and weigh at least 110 pounds.

Plasma is recouped within 24-48 hours, meaning people can donate it more frequently than they can blood. The Red Cross website states that eligible individuals can donate COVID-19 plasma with the Red Cross as often as every seven days for up to three months, for a maximum of eight times.

Redinger noted that some private companies will pay people to donate plasma and sell it to hospitals, but she had chosen to give to Red Cross without compensation because she didn’t want to take advantage of the need brought on by COVID-19.

She said she may decide to donate plasma again in the future and she encourages others who are eligible to consider doing the same.

“It’s a small sacrifice to give blood or plasma to help others in need,” she said.

For more information on donating convalescent plasma, visit redcrossblood.org.