Health system encourages individuals who’ve recovered from the virus to donate blood
Orlando, FL (April 10, 2020) – Doctors at Orlando Health Orlando Regional Medical Center infused their first COVID-19 patient with convalescent plasma Wednesday, April 8. Fifty-two-year-old Michael “Kevin” Rathel received the investigational therapy around midnight; a mere 12 hours after compatible blood was donated.
“Normally, getting plasma requires going through a long process because it’s investigational,” said Kevin’s physician, Satya Mukkera, MD, critical care physician at Orlando Health ORMC. “In a normal timeline, this might take a few days. So working through the process in a few hours in phenomenal.”
The process to obtain and infuse convalescent plasma is complicated. Donors’ blood types must be compatible with recipients. Donors must have recovered from COVID-19, been symptom-free for a minimum of 14 days and be tested to ensure the virus is no longer active in the body. The hospital administering the treatment must receive approval from the FDA on a case-by-case basis.
“This was like catching lightning in a bottle,” said George Ralls, MD, vice president of quality and clinical transformation for Orlando Health. “The donor had the proper blood type to allow his plasma to be given to Kevin. Things lined up the way we could have hoped for.”
Orlando Health is urging individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate blood. Says Dr. Ralls, “This is something anyone who has recovered from COVID-19 should be aware of. The goal is to have enough plasma in inventory, so we don’t have to rely on a one-to-one connection as we did in this case. We need to have an inventory of plasma that can be used for patients no matter where they are.”
Doctors say it’s too early to predict Kevin’s prognosis. “It usually takes a couple of days to see initial changes in lab parameters after giving plasma,” adds Dr. Mukkera. “We’re hoping to see some positive changes in the next two to three days. The good news is his condition is not worsening, which is a positive sign.”
Individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 and are interested in donating blood should contact their local blood bank.
About Orlando Health
Orlando Health is a not-for-profit healthcare organization with $5.6 billion of assets under management. The system spans nine Florida counties with nearly 450 locations that include 13 wholly-owned or affiliated hospitals and emergency departments; rehabilitation services, cancer centers, heart institutes, imaging and laboratory services, wound care centers, more than 300 physician offices for adults and pediatrics, and 11 urgent care centers in partnership with CareSpot Urgent Care. In FY18, Orlando Health served approximately 167,000 inpatients, more than 2.7 million outpatients, and more than 20,000 international patients. The organization is home to the area’s only Level One Trauma Centers for adults and pediatrics, and is a statutory teaching hospital system that offers both specialty and community hospitals. More than 3,100 physicians have privileges across the system, which is also one of the area’s largest employers with nearly 20,500 employees. Additionally, Orlando Health provides more than $620 million in total value to the community in the form of charity care, community benefit programs and services, community building activities and more. Additional information can be found at www.orlandohealth.com.