Blacksburg woman first to donate plasma for COVID-19 fight in NRV

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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ7)— A Blacksburg woman is the first in the New River Valley to donate her plasma to help the Red Cross in their fight against COVID-19, according to the American Red Cross.

WDBJ7 photo

Debbie Elkins has been counting down the days since she found out she could contribute help others.

“I’m thrilled to be able to help,” she said to WDBJ7 moments after she finished her donation. “If that was the whole reason for getting sick and testing positive to help someone else, then by all means.”

Elkins said after having a negative nasal swab and positive antibody test, she was ready to do whatever she could to give back.

“It’s exciting to me that I can be a small part of helping someone else,” Elkins said.

The Red Cross is calling this treatment a convalescent plasma donation, something that looks just like a traditional one, except this donor is someone who fully recovered from COVID-19.

“What we’re hearing from doctors on the ground is they believe this has incredible potential to provide therapeutic value to patients,” said Virginia’s Red Cross Communications Director Jonathan McNamara. “We’re happy we can play a small role in helping healthcare providers who are on the frontlines of this fight to do everything they can to help people recover as quickly as possible.”

Elkins’ plasma will likely go to a patient who requested it from his or her doctor. Officials said the plasma can help up to three patients.

“You can’t move your arms and you’ve gotta be completely still for a while,” Elkins said. “There’s really no pain or anything. You’re just sitting there and patiently waiting.”

Her donation took a little bit over two hours to complete. Elkins said she spent the time watching one of her favorite movies, 27 Dresses.

Although it’s not yet a proven cure, Elkins’ plasma won’t go to waste. Even if she doesn’t have exactly what the Red Cross is looking for in her plasma, they can still use it toward someone else battling an illness who needs plasma.

“If this can help one patient fighting this process, then it’s worth the effort,” McNamara said. “We’re doing everything we can around the clock to facilitate this new program because we know how important it is for patients and their families still in the midst of this horrible virus.”

While Elkins might be the first from the NRV, she certainly doesn’t want to be the last.

“I would encourage everyone to take the time to fill out the paperwork and change people’s lives and save people’s lives,” Elkins said.

McNamara said you don’t have to take an antibody test ahead of time. He encourages anyone who might have the antibodies to apply online to be a donor to help with the fight. You can apply here:

McNamara wanted to thank everyone in the WDBJ7 viewing area donating regular blood. He said people have answered in a big way, and donations will especially be needed now as Virginia opens and more elective surgeries are happening.

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