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plasma donor Samantha Price

Two area women are among the first to donate blood plasma in an emergency clinical trial to help treat severely ill patients battling COVID-19

Two area women are among the first to donate blood plasma in an emergency clinical trial to help treat severely ill patients battling COVID-19.

The project is part of the National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project, which the Food and Drug Administration has approved as an Emergency Investigational New Drug (EIND). The theory is that people who have recovered from COVID-19 have developed antibodies against the disease.

To date, six hospitalized patients who are severely ill with COVID have received plasma infusions. Nearly 20 individuals who have recovered from COVID are cleared to donate blood plasma as part of this trial. 

“The scientific premise is sound that antibodies can reduce symptoms and hopefully the severity of COVID-19,” said Tim Endy. MD, MPH, professor and chair of microbiology and immunology at Upstate. “The unknown with this type of product is currently we don’t know how much antibody we’re actually getting from recovered patients and that’s a question that needs to be answered and we’re hoping to do that. But the risk of getting a unit of plasma, which we do all the time for people who are post-surgical or in need of volume, is very low for any serious side effects and the potential benefit could be great.”

Samantha Price donated blood plasma April 13 after recovering from COVID and being symptom free for 14 days.

“This was an easy decision to make,” said Price. “If I can help someone who is battling this disease and give them another holiday to celebrate and more time to spend with their family, why wouldn’t I do it.”

Price saw news coverage of Upstate’s clinical trial and traveled to Upstate from her home in Ontario County to see if she’d be a candidate to donate. When test results showed she was a good match to be a plasma donor, she made an appointment with the Red Cross to donate.

“Hardly any inconvenience on my part throughout this process, which makes this decision to donate even easier to make,” she said.

Price tested positive for COVID on St. Patrick’s Day and except for a high fever, her symptoms were mild, she said. Her husband and four-month old son also spiked fevers, but did not get sicker. They were not tested for COVID.

“This virus is something you can overcome and it’s important that people hear that story, too,” she said. “The silver lining in all of this, if you will, is recovering from the virus has given me the opportunity to help someone else.”

Gail La Duke shared much of Price’s feelings about her desire to donate.

Having tested positive for COVID with only mild symptoms, La Duke was moved to donate blood plasma.

“I heard news reports about the trial and thought this is the least I could do to help at this time,” La Duke said. 

“So many people are helping in so many ways that it made sense for me to help in this way,” she said.

La Duke’s first symptoms of COVID were a sore throat and runny nose. Next, came a low-grade fever and a headache. After testing positive, she self-isolated in a spare bedroom in her house and had her own bath.  She spent the time watching television and reading.

When her health improved after a 14-day isolation, she was grateful to learn of the study and donate her plasma for the greater good. 

“It feels wonderful to be able to give something of yourself that might benefit others.”

Caption: Samantha Price, donating her blood plasma as part of Upstate's clinical trial.