COVID-19 patients can give back

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Melody Bordeaux
  • 59th Medical Wing Public Affairs

With flu season fast approaching and no approved vaccine developed for COVID-19, supplies of life-saving measures such as blood and plasma are being put under strain.

To help hold back the tide, the Defense Department has established a goal of obtaining 10,000 units of donated COVID-19 convalescent plasma, or CCP, by Sept. 30, 2020, to combat the potential rise in cases.

A patient that has recovered from COVID-19 can donate within two to three weeks after recovery. Within this time frame, recovered patients have a concentrated group of antibodies that can help critically ill patients not producing enough antibodies on their own.

Donating CCP allows doctors to treat other infections caused by the virus, such as pneumonia, while the antibodies strengthen the patient’s immune system and fight against COVID-19.

All service members and DoD civilians that meet these conditions can help donate to the Armed Services Blood Bank Center; each donation could save as many as three lives.

“Do for somebody what they can’t do for themselves,” said Staff Sgt. Kiersten Zardee, Armed Services Blood Bank Center NCO in charge of aphaeresis operations. “Giving antibodies saves lives.”

Even if a donor can’t give plasma, they can still donate blood and support the everyday mission to provide blood products directly to military beneficiaries worldwide.

“Blood donated on military installations directly supports military beneficiaries and warfighters,” said Maj. Sherry McWaters, director of the Armed Services Blood Bank Center. “We really are asking donors to choose us right now, to come on to the base, because we are limited to only doing collections on federal property.”

While the prospect of donating plasma may seem daunting, especially in the uncertain world we now find ourselves in, the team at the Armed Services Blood Bank Center is happy to guide potential donors through the process.

“It’s a scary time, there are a lot of things that we don’t know, people have a lot of unanswered questions, but if you are nervous to donate just give us a call,” said Lt. Col. Jeff Wisneski, commander of the 59th Medical Diagnostics and Therapeutics Squadron. “We’ll answer any and all questions that you have so that you’re not scared and that you’re not nervous because at the end of the day we will find an answer.”

Once a patient comes in for a screening they will receive a $25 incentive and staff will determine if the recovered patient has the right amount of antibodies to donate. This incentive is only available until Sept. 30, 2020.

Even if a patient does not qualify to donate CCP they will still receive the gift card and can still donate blood to support mission readiness, military beneficiaries, and military treatment facilities around the world.

The process to donate CCP takes about 45 minutes to an hour and they provide patients with snacks, a movie, seat warmer, pillow, and blankets to relax.

When a patient donates, the automated blood collection machine separates the plasma from the blood cells and then returns the red blood cells rich in oxygen back to the patient, significantly reducing fatigue while still providing the most plasma, and antibodies, possible.

Many people have been affected by COVID-19 either personally or through the experience of their loved ones. Those who recover have the opportunity to help save someone else’s life.

“Our donor center values the success of this CCP mission,” McWaters said. “We truly appreciate everyone who has and who will schedule an appointment to help our nation overcome this pandemic.”

For more information, call the Armed Services Blood Bank Center at 210-292-8142 or 210-292-8145. To schedule an appointment at the Lackland Armed Services Blood Bank Center, visit and select Donate Blood in the top menu. Search by sponsor ASBBC-SA, and select the ASBBC-SA In-House Donors from the drop-down that appears.