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He Fought Off COVID-19. Can His Blood Help Others?

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Jason Garcia donating his blood plasma at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, CA. (Courtesy of St. Joseph Hospital)
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St. Joseph Hospital in Orange completed its first blood transfer Wednesday from a recovered COVID-19 patient to a patient sick with the disease. It joins a handful of hospitals across the nation experimenting with transferring blood plasma in the hope that antibodies from a recovered patient will attack the virus and help a sick person heal.

Dr. Timothy Byun, who led the transfer, says he believes St. Joseph is the first hospital on the West Coast to try this experimental treatment.

CALLING FOR DONOR PATIENTS

In mid-March, Jason Garcia, a 36-year-old San Diego man, was diagnosed with COVID-19. Just a week ago, he made a full recovery and was released from isolation by San Diego County’s health department.

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He posted his triumph on Facebook and that’s when a friend told him that St. Joseph Hospital was looking for a recovered patient’s blood plasma. So on April 1, Garcia drove up to Orange and donated his plasma.

That same day, the plasma was transferred into an intubated patient who’s in the hospital’s intensive care unit, Dr. Byun said.

One plasma donation can be used for three patients. The hospital plans to do the second and third transfers soon.

“There's gonna be a need for people to know if this treatment works and is viable,” Garcia said.

WILL IT WORK?

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We won’t know the results just yet because only a handful of hospitals in the U.S. have started trying plasma transfers on COVID-19 patients.

But it's not a new concept. Historical records show that doctors transferred blood plasma to patients during the 1918 flu pandemic, and could have resulted in a reduction of deaths.

Blood donation centers are asking people who have recovered from the pandemic disease to donate.

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