Colorado’s first mobile plasma collection holds donor events in Vail

Plasma drive continues five more days over the next two weeks

Randy Wyrick
Vail Daily

VAIL — If you’ve recovered from COVID-19 and have the test results to prove it, you have five more opportunities to locally give blood plasma that might help keep someone alive.

If you don’t have the test results, you still have time.

Vitalant, the nation’s second-largest independent blood provider, is in Vail for one of the country’s first mobile convalescent plasma donor events. The mobile lab and its crew of workers will be back Thursday, and will return the next two Tuesdays and Thursdays after that.

The Vitalant crew is very happy to be here and happy to come back.

“It’s very exciting to be in Vail for the first mobile convalescent plasma event,” said Dr. Samantha Mack, Vitalant’s regional director, during Tuesday morning’s opening session.

Vitalant began collecting “convalescent plasma” donations from recovered COVID-19 patients in its Ventura, California, facility.

Vitalant is able to take its show on the road because it owns a set of FDA-approved mobile collection machines.

Vail Mayor Dave Chapin was Tuesday’s last opening day donor. He said he once did a hospital stint with four IVs sticking in him, so Tuesday’s plasma donation was no big deal.

“It just feels good,” Chapin said, adding that Vitalant will let him know when his plasma is used.

“I’ve never been able to help anyone like this in my life,” Chapin said.

That Vitalant chose the Vail Valley for its first mobile plasma drive speaks volumes, Chapin said.

“We were recognized early as a hot spot. We were one of the first to shut down, and we’ve done so much to try to get in front of this,” Chapin said.

The help plasma might provide

If you’ve recovered from COVID-19, your plasma contains antibodies that helped you fight it off. Those antibodies can help critically ill patients who are hospitalized, Mack said.

Those patients, usually in ICU, would be transfused with a recovered patient’s plasma and the antibodies it contains.

While donors are giving plasma, their red blood cells are returned to the donors’ bloodstreams. Each unit of the gold-colored plasma can treat an ill patient. Some donors have been able to donate five units, about a liter, which could treat up to five patients, Mack said.

Because they are only collecting plasma, you can donate again in seven days, said Dr. Nadine Lober, the Vail resident who spearheaded the local plasma collection efforts. Lober has already donated twice, making the drive to one of Vitalant’s Denver facility on two consecutive weekends.

The donation process takes about an hour, Lober said.

If you had COVID-19 symptoms and have test results from a reputable lab, and you’ve shown no symptoms for 28 days, you’re eligible to donate plasma, Lober said.

It’s still ‘investigational’

The process seems to help, but concrete results are still being determined.

“It is investigational, but it makes sense that it could help,” Mack said.

So far the results are anecdotal but encouraging, Mack said.

It matters what test you use to determine if you have antibodies doctors are looking for.

Colorado Mountain Medical is performing antibody tests on recovered COVID-19 patients every day. These results can be used to qualify an individual to donate. The serology tests are being introduced at an intense pace and not all are accurate, Mack said.

Many donors have inquired about contacting the American Red Cross. There are no Red Cross donation centers in Colorado.

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