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Nursing home employees who survived COVID-19 stepping up to donate plasma

Glencroft Center for Modern Aging
Posted at 2:06 PM, Jul 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-03 22:03:56-04

PHOENIX — A Valley long-term care facility is turning heartache and tragedy into hope, after getting hit hard by COVID-19.

The Glencroft Center for Modern Aging in Glendale was one of many Arizona nursing home facilities that has had to deal with the spread of coronavirus. The facility also had a large number of employees who tested positive for the virus. All of them have since recovered.

Glencroft is now partnering with Vitalant, a blood and plasma donation center, to hold the Valley's first convalescent plasma donation drive. All of the donors will be Glencroft's own employees who have survived COVID-19.

With Valley hospitals filling up with those suffering from COVID-19, Sue Thew, a spokeswoman for Vitalant, says there's a big need for plasma donors.

"There is a very desperate need for plasma in the state. Currently, convalescent plasma is the only antibody treatment available for some of the most gravely ill patients, so the more people that can come forward, the more people we can help save," said Thew.

Although hit hard by COVID-19, the Glencroft Center for Modern Aging was also the first facility in the state to become completely transparent with the community by posting the numbers of residents and staff impacted by the virus on a dashboard on their website.

Last updated on Wednesday, the dashboard indicates the facility lost 36 residents to COVID-19 and had 82 employees out sick with the virus, most of whom have now completely recovered. Many of these employees are now hoping their sickness will mean survival for someone else, in critical condition today.

"They will be donating their plasma. Depending upon your weight, you can help anywhere from two to five people from your convalescent plasma, so this is a really great thing," said Thew.

Shelley Wood from Scottsdale just donated her plasma at a Vitalant facility after suffering from COVID-19 for more than three weeks. She said the virus hit her hard, from unbearable headaches, to body aches, cough, difficulty breathing, and fluid in her lungs. But Wood feels grateful to be a survivor.

"Even today I am being affected by the COVID. I am healed, I am better, but my lungs, it's still hard to breathe sometimes," said Wood.

When she learned her plasma could potentially help save lives, Wood said it was a no-brainer, she knew she had to donate.

"I think about those who really need it, because the people who eventually get on ventilators, they are the ones who need it," said Wood.

In order to be eligible though, Vitalant first screened her blood for antibodies. It is a process that can take up to two weeks.

When Wood's results came back positive for antibodies, she was cleared to donate plasma. The process is much like donating blood, although it can take a little bit longer, according to Wood.

"They took about four and a half bags of plasma from me," said Wood.

Vitalant staff say you do have to make an appointment to donate. The facility first started collecting convalescent plasma on April 15. They are also now screening all blood donations for COVID-19 antibodies, to potentially find more eligible donors, as there is such a great need. The company provides blood and plasma donations to 62 Arizona hospitals they have partnered with.

Using the slogan "together we can save lives" the company is pleading for COVID-19 survivors who are no longer symptomatic to consider donating their plasma to help others.

For the full checklist to find out if you qualify, or to apply to donate your plasma you can visit the company's website and fill out the forms here.

Vitalant has tested 16,000 people so far, and those results are just now starting to come in.

The employee-only blood drive with the Glencroft Center for Modern Aging will take place next Friday.