Norton Healthcare, Kentucky Blood Center working to get plasma to COVID-19 patients

Physicians around the country are testing a possible treatment for COVID-19 using plasma taken from blood donated by fully recovered COVID-19 patients, called convalescent plasma. Locally, Norton Healthcare began offering this experimental treatment in early April and has transfused 21 patients who were critically ill with COVID-19. Of those, six have been well enough to be discharged from the hospital.

“These results are incredibly encouraging, but we’ve had a disconnect between our growing list of potential donor volunteers and our ability to collect their convalescent plasma,” said Joseph M. Flynn, D.O., MPH, FACP, chief administrative officer, Norton Medical Group, and physician-in-chief, Norton Cancer Institute.

Kentucky Blood Center, one of the first in the country to begin collecting convalescent plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients, has the capability to collect plasma from larger numbers of recovered patients. To date, they have collected from 15 patients and distributed plasma to partners throughout Kentucky.

Norton Healthcare and Kentucky Blood Center now have joined forces to increase convalescent plasma available to patients at Norton Healthcare and other hospitals in Louisville and beyond.

“Kentucky Blood Center is thrilled to be able to assist hospitals throughout the state in this cutting-edge medical treatment,” said William Reed, CEO, Kentucky Blood Center. “Lifesaving is our business, and we are excited to help Norton Healthcare obtain the critically needed plasma as quickly as possible.”

While COVID-19 currently has no proven treatment, convalescent plasma, a component of blood from patients who have recovered from COVID-19, may provide antibodies to fight the virus. Individuals who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 may be eligible to donate 14 to 28 days after complete resolution of their symptoms, as well as additional testing.

Norton Healthcare will continue to conduct screening and antibody testing for recovered patients who wish to donate plasma. Those patients then will be referred to Kentucky Blood Center, where they will be scheduled to donate at one of two Louisville locations. Each person who donates plasma can generate enough to treat up to three COVID-19 patients.

“This relationship with Kentucky Blood Center is exciting since we have a list of over 200 volunteers eager to donate. Thus far, we’ve only had enough plasma to give to critically ill patients,” said Dr. Flynn, who launched the development of the Norton Healthcare Convalescent Plasma Program. “But with Kentucky Blood Center’s partnership to increase supplies, we may be able to help other patients. This will likely have a profound impact on health care throughout the region.”

Don A. Stevens, M.D., a hematologist/oncologist with Norton Cancer Institute and one of the institute’s founders, is the primary investigator on the convalescent plasma study. Dr. Stevens has led many clinical trials at Norton Healthcare, bringing leading-edge hematology and cancer treatments to Louisville-area patients.

If you had COVID-19 symptoms after March 4, 2020, and were exposed to someone who tested positive, you can volunteer as a plasma donor. Call (502) 446-2688, or fill out a questionnaire in your MyNortonChart account: Choose the “Health” icon. Under “Medical Tools,” choose Questionnaires, then “COVID Plasma Donor.”

If you have a loved one who is ill with COVID-19 and you’d like to explore participation in the convalescent plasma trial, discuss the possibility with their physician.

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