ROCKFORD — He's a local band lead singer, unabashed COVID-19 survivor, and now one of the first — actually the second — to make a convalescent plasma donation here in an attempt to save the lives of other coronavirus patients.
Ted O'Donnell, 38, of Rockford, made the potentially-life saving donation Wednesday at the Rock River Valley Blood Center, 419 N. Sixth St.
It was just one month ago that the Dirty Fishnet Stockings lead singer livestreamed himself on his Facebook page to inform others that he had tested positive for the virus and urged others to stay home. O'Donnell, who was not hospitalized, self-quarantined in his home and has made a full recovery.
He didn't flinch from the needle prick to his arm nor from the chance to help others.
“When I heard that the blood bank was actively looking for folks who recovered from COVID, it wasn't a question in my mind to call and say, 'OK. Let's do this,' especially for those who can't fight it off with their own antibodies.”
The local blood center is among a growing number of blood banks around the country seeking convalescent plasma, the liquid part of the blood collected from recovered COVID-19 patients and administered to people diagnosed with the disease.
While there is no proven treatment for COVID-19, it is possible that convalescent plasma collected from recovered COVID-19 patients contains antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) and might provide passive immunity for some COVID-19 patients, said Heidi Ognibene, director of operations at the Rock River Valley Blood Center.
The process can take up to 90 minutes and involves a phlebotomist inserting a needle into a vein in your arm. Blood is drawn and pumped into a machine with a centrifuge, where the plasma is separated from the blood. The plasma, a yellowish liquid, is collected in a separate bag, and the blood that was drawn is returned to your body with a saline solution through the needle already in your arm. This process is repeated until the proper amount of plasma is collected, which varies based on the donor's weight.
Leslie Johns, the blood center's technical services director, said a recovered COVID-19 patient has antibodies that have effectively battled the new coronavirus.
While the patient is recovering or convalescing, their blood retains the antibodies. Transfusing those antibodies into a new Covid-19 patient might help the recipient battle their infection as well as buy them more time to allow their own immune system to start producing antibodies.
Dr. Georffrey Tsaras, an infection prevention specialist at SwedishAmerican Hospital, said anecdotal evidence of COVID-19 patients recovering after a plasma transfusion is giving hope to health care providers around the globe.
He also said SwedishAmerican is one of many hospitals around the country participating in clinical trials to help determine if the transfusion is a legitimate treatment.
Tsaras said the sample size is small.
“If you look at two patients who did well, we don't know if they did well because of the treatment or in spite of the treatment,” he said.
The federal Food and Drug Administration has issued issued industry guidelines for plasma collections and research, but has yet to sign off on the treatment until further studies and data is collected.
Ognibene said donated plasma has a shelf life of 42 days but can be frozen and stored up to a year.
In addition to being a husband and father of three children, O'Donnell is co-chairman of local groups who put on activities such as the Fourth of July fireworks and the Festival of Lights Christmas showcase at Sinnissippi Gardens.
He said he volunteered to donate his potentially life-saving plasma for one reason.
“We are here for an extremely short time,” he said. “If we have the ability and opportunity to help somebody to be here a little longer then we should take that opportunity to do so.”
Chris Green: email@example.com; @chrisfgreen