Local family pleads with recovered COVID-19 patients to donate convalescent plasma

Posted at 3:56 PM, Jul 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-07 19:41:26-04

One local family is pleading with recovered COVID-19 patients to donate convalescent plasma, which they, and many others, desperately need.

Shannon Gornell's father is in the ICU battling the virus.

"Even though, he’s more than halfway through the virus, the damage is done and now he’s fighting to breathe," she said.

Gornell said the hardest part is not being able to be in the room with him.

"That’s what’s killing us,"is that we can’t just hold his hand, can’t see him, can’t look through an ICU window," she said. "It’s -- it’s awful, it’s the worst."

Her father, Arthur Brown Jr., has been a supportive member of the Corpus Christi community his entire life. Creating a life in Corpus Christi, Gornell said, and helping others is Brown's pride and joy.

Now, Gornell hopes the community can help give back to her father by donating convalescent plasma.

"If they [Spohn Shoreline] have the plasma today, they told us that he’s on the list to get it today," she said. "But they can’t -- you know -- they can’t tell us a time. We don’t know. So we’re just praying that it happens today, and we’ll see."

In order for someone to give convalescent plasma, they must:

  • have fully recovered from the novel coronavirus and have been symptom-free for 14 days;
  • have previously tested positive for COVID-19
  • be 17 years old or older
  • weigh more thaan 110 lbs.

Local Health Authority Srikanth Ramachandruni, also known as "Dr. Ram", said plasma from one donor can save two or more lives.

"We don’t have anything to slow it down or kill it, unless we borrow antibodies (from) patients who have recovered from the COVID," he said.

Ramachandruni said the virus attacks the cells, the lungs and blood vessels, and that it takes 14 days in order for the body to create antibodies.

During the 14 days, the body does not know how to react to the virus, he said, which causes inflammation, and creates damage to the lungs and blood vessels.

"We are treating the inflammation rather than the virus for the past two weeks," he said. "It will be helpful if we can kill the virus also, simultaneously, so that the inflammation doesn’t keep going."

That's where the convalescent plasma comes in.

He said, currently, plasma is being flown in from New Jersey and New York, because it is in short supply locally.

The Coastal Bend Blood Center said that as of Tuesday, 58 recovered patients have donated convalescent plasma. It was announced during Monday's city-county joint news briefing that a total of 449 Nueces Co. patients were considered to have fully recovered, meaning only 13 percent of recovered patients have donated.

CHRISTUS Spohn Health System has also reached out urging recovered patients to donate plasma. In an effort to receive more donors, CHRISTUS Spohn Foundation Board Member and owner of L&F Distributors, Tony LaMantia, has made a donation to the cause. Every eligible plasma donor will receive $50 gift cards.

"As we try to navigate through COVID-19, a lot of us are searching for a way to help get our community through this," said LaMantia. "While we don't yet have an approved treatment, those who have previously tested positive have an opportunity to assist doctors by donating their plasma. This could help those still battling COVID-19 heal and in return reduce the number of patients in hospitals. I can't thank the Coastal Bend Blood Center enough for spearheading this program and as a local business we are proud to support such a wonderful cause."

As for Gornell and her family, they're hoping plasma donations come in, to give her father a greater fighting chance.

"We just pray that people are sitting around going, 'God what can we do? We’re sitting in our houses or quarantining, what can we do?' " she said. "If you’ve had it, and you can help why not try to help a couple people, you know?"