ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The faster we can get plasma donations to sick COVID-19 patients, the faster we can put this pandemic behind us, or at least that’s what American Red Cross New York Regional Medical Director Dr. Lawrence Fialkow hopes.
“I would love to see our numbers within this region come down as we are able to treat these patients more quickly,” Dr. Fialkow explains to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.
The donations help transfer antibodies from those who have already fought off coronavirus to current patients who’s immune systems need the extra boost. The American Red Cross already has plans in the works to get that plasma where it needs to go and to who needs it as fast as possible. The FDA last week approved expanded access for convalescent plasma.
“Initially, hospitals needed to find a donor, link them to a patient, then send them to us for testing and collection of the product and processing and that took time,” Dr. Fialkow explains. “Now, we’ve collected enough donors that we have a standing supply of this convalescent plasma, so that when a hospital orders it, they’re able to get it much quicker. So the turnaround time now is usually one to two days.”
In fact, he says patients who have already received their plasma transfusions are showing some improvement.
“[The hospitals] are seeing decrease in symptoms, they are seeing some who are recovering faster than they might have prior to getting the transfusion of plasma,” says Dr. Fialkow.
“One of our ECMO patients has come off ECMO today, which is fantastic. That’s an individual who received the convalescent plasma,” announced Dr. Ferdinand Venditti, Albany Med’s Hospital General Director, during a video update Monday.
That patient was Troy Police Department Sgt. Randy French. His wife Danielle French says he was sedated and put on the ECMO, Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation, machine to circulate and add oxygen to his blood after his lungs started to fail. She says since his initial COVID-19 positive diagnosis March 31, his condition quickly spiraled.
“You kind of feel helpless, like he was just getting worse and worse and worse. That’s what was happening every day, the news just kept getting worse,” Danielle says.
However, after Sgt. French got his plasma transfusion Friday, he improved enough to remove the ECMO.
“They told me to expect some changes in the first few days, and we won’t know yet how much is the plasma and how much was just giving his lungs that time to rest, but it’s lifted us a little bit in a really, really hard time, and given us a little bit more hope,” Danielle says.
Danielle posted on Facebook once doctors first told her the possibility of using plasma to treat Sgt. French.
“I felt like I had to do something, because I couldn’t visit him, I couldn’t comfort him or advocate for him, I couldn’t do anything else,” she says.
She says immediately her phone and social media were overflowing with support and offers from friends, family, and even complete strangers to donate their plasma.
“The nurses even told me they were inundated with calls from people asking if they could be Randy’s donor, it’s been absolutely amazing,” Danielle says.
Sgt. French gained infamy during an extended investigation into his recollection of and involvement in an officer-involved shooting back in April 2016. However, Danielle says the recent outpouring of support proves to her communities can put differences aside to help each other in need.
“There was a time when he was made to feel like he was a horrible person, and that took a toll on him. But he’s been serving this community for years and years, and this love and support we’re getting from the community really tells me it hasn’t gone unnoticed or unappreciated,” she says.
Danielle says she’s excited to show Randy all the positivity he’s received, including support from Troy Mayor Patrick Madden, Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin, and the Troy Police Benevolent Association.
“I can’t wait for him to wake up and show him how much people notice him and care and the love he’s gotten from so many people. I think it’s going to overwhelm him a little and he’ll be embarrassed, because he’s not one of those people that wants attention, but he’s just going to have to deal with that part,” laughs Danielle.
She also adds words can’t describe how she feels towards whomever donated their plasma to Sgt. French.
“It’s amazing that they were willing to come in and deal with the process of sitting there for hours and giving up a part of them for it to help somebody else. Thank you doesn’t even feel like enough, but thank you. You could have saved his life,” she says.
She also says she’s grateful to all those who reached out through her post and donated their plasma through Albany Med. She says she hopes to join them soon.
“Anything donated is going to save someone, and you know, I know I was exposed, but since we’ve been quarantined, I haven’t been tested yet. So if when the antibody tests are more available and I find out if I was positive, I’d like to donate if I can,” she says.