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COVID-19 survivor donates plasma, considers it a blessing

Medical professionals at the drive said one donor could potentially save up to four people.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — One of the first plasma donation drives in the state was held on Friday outside of Prisma Health Baptist Parkridge Hospital in Columbia. 

The plasma drive was a partnership between Prisma Health and The Blood Connection.  

This is one of the ways health care workers are trying to help COVID-19 patients by collecting the antibodies of survivors. Multiple survivors came to donate, including Lynn Weeks. 

"I'm so excited beyond belief that I almost cried when I was told I could give," COVID-19 survivor Lynn Weeks said.

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On April 17, Weeks who lives in Camden, was excited and ready to donate her plasma as a COVID-19 survivor. 

But back in late February, she wasn't sure what her future would hold once she started having coronavirus symptoms.

"My husband an I were exposed on February 28, however, we didn't know we were exposed, Weeks said. "The following Friday, on April 6, I got sick all of a sudden I got a cough, I was congested, and the main thing was fatigue."

Weeks called her doctor, was tested for the virus on April 9 and then three days later on April 12 her test came back positive.

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"I have four underlying conditions," Weeks said. "One I've been diabetic for 57 years,I have heart disease and kidney issues, and I am certainly the age that is at risk, and it was just so wonderful to be at such peace. I just felt protected by God the whole time."

Now, fully recovered, she is giving back by donating her plasma which medical professionals like Helmut Albrecht are hopeful will help a lot of patients.

"The first experiences are very promising," Albrecht said.

Dr. Helmut Albrecht, Chair of Internal Medicine for Prisma Health Midlands and USC, said by using recovered COVID-19 patients antibodies can be helpful to those currently with the virus.

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"This will generate medications, probably the most promising treatment approach for our patients and we think it's going to helpful for a lot of patients," Albrecht said.

This isn't the first time this approach has been used. Dr. Robert Rainer, The Blood Connection Medical Director, said this is known as passive immunity and was used before when treating Ebola.

One donor can potentially save up to four people.

"We know it works for some people," Rainer said. "It's not a magic bullet by any means like all things COVID, it's going to be a multiple prong approach."

 But for Weeks, as a survivor she said she couldn't not donate.

"Since I am here now, I feel like I need to pay it forward," Weeks said. "I consider it a blessing to offer plasma. It's a blessing to me and I hope it is a blessing to someone else."

The Blood Connection said they are planning another drive for next week and will continue to have them as long as there is a need.