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First Clark person with virus donates plasma

James Nisbet of Winchester, the first person in Clark County to have COVID-19, did something last week to help someone else with the virus. He gave plasma.

Nisbet, 50, made his donation June 4 at the Kentucky Blood Center in Lexington because plasma containing SARS-CoV-2 antibodies is in demand from medical professionals to treat those with the illness.

“Having had it, I was very blessed that it wasn’t as severe as other people that got it, but at the same time, I’ve seen the devastation, what it does to people,” said Nisbet, who sells medical supplies to hospitals. “I’ll help somebody if I can.”

Antibodies are blood proteins produced by the body’s immune system to fight and ward off foreign invaders that cause diseases.

Convalescent plasma is a component of blood from recovered patients, and studies have shown that almost all recovered COVID-19 patients have the antibodies.

There is not yet enough clinical evidence to prove that novel coronavirus antibodies prevent people from getting sick with the virus, lessen the severity of the illness or shorten hospital stays, but there is some indication that it may be helpful.

Mandy Brajuha, director of marketing for Kentucky Blood Center, said antibodies have been effective in treating other illnesses such as SARS, a viral respiratory illness caused by a different coronavirus, SARS-CoV-1, which caused a worldwide outbreak in 2002-2004.

“At this point, it’s the only thing we’ve got” to use against the contagion until a vaccine is developed, she said.

Dr. Steve Davis of Nicholasville, a public health deparment medical director, said Wednesday he believes the antibodies offer some hope for COVID-19 patients.

“There is some evidence that it is helpful; however, it is not the silver bullet,” Davis said.

Experience has shown that “people who are extremely ill” seem to improve when given the antibodies, he said.

KBC a pioneer in convalescent plasma donations

“We were the second blood center in the nation to collect plasma” from someone who had recovered from COVID-19, Brajuha said.

That was on March 29 for a patient at Baptist Health Lexington who was on a ventilator and at great risk, and that person recovered.

Brajuha said the plasma is only given to patients who are so sick that their life is at risk, and donors must have no symptoms for 14 to 28 days after recovery and test negative the second time.

“As cases are expected to peak in the coming weeks, the Kentucky Blood Center critically needs more convalescent donors to start building a plasma supply and stay ahead of the need,” Dr. Dennis Williams, KBC’s medical director, said in a prepared statement. “If you had a positive COVID-19 test and your symptoms have been gone for more than two weeks, you can take part in this potentially life-saving new way to address the coronavirus — and help fellow Kentuckians in need.”

Kentucky Blood Center is accepting donations of plasma from recovered coronavirus patients at its location in the Beaumont Centre on Harrodsburg Road in Lexington.

There is a form available for convalescent plasma donors to fill out at  kybloodcenter.org/convalescent-plasma.donation.

Donors can make appointments online by visiting kybloodcenter.org and selecting the donor center they would like to visit or by calling 800-775-2522.

Nisbet wants to
‘make a difference’

Nisbet said the coronavirus affected his immunity system, and it has taken some time for him to get his energy back, but he has started running to get in shape.

“I feel a lot better than I did,” he said.

“You tend to look at things differently when you’ve had it,” he said, and taking 40 minutes to donate plasma is something he can do to “make a difference” to someone who needs it.

“Sometimes just giving a little bit goes a long way for somebody else,” he said.

About Randy Patrick

Randy Patrick is a reporter for Bluegrass Newsmedia, which includes The Jessamine Journal. He may be reached at 859-759-0015 or by email at randy.patrick@bluegrassnewsmedia.com.

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