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Coronavirus survivors urged to donate plasma to meet demands of local hospitals

The need for plasma is rising in San Antonio, but it can only come from those who have beaten COVID-19.

SAN ANTONIO — On Sunday, Joseph Doria Sr. will donate convalescent plasma for the second time since he beat the novel coronavirus. It's his way of paying it forward.

"I was really excited about giving back," Doria Sr. said. 

His situation wasn't looking good. He was in the hospital for 20 days—nearly half of them were spent on a ventilator. Eventually, he picked up the phone and made a call to his wife to say goodbye. 

"It was not a very good chance of survival," Doria Sr. said.

But those chances came through. The 56-year-old said it was a plasma donation that helped save his life. He was able to walk out of the hospital and hug his loved ones, who were waiting for him outside. 

"Oh, there's no doubt about it," Doria Sr. said. "That and the power of prayer."

While there's no proven treatment for the coronavirus, experts say convalescent plasma has shown to be effective in treating current COVID-19 patients, and shortening their hospital stays. But that convalescent plasma must come from coronavirus survivors. 

According to the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center, more than 6,180 people have recovered from COVID-19 in our area, yet only 250 donors have donated convalescent plasma.

Associate Medical Director Samantha Gomez Ngamsuntikul said the demand from local hospitals outweighs the donors. 

"Unfortunately the supply just isn't there," Gomez Ngamsuntikul said. 

Gomez Ngamsuntikul said only about a dozen people donate convalescent plasma daily, making it difficult to meet the need. On Tuesday night, STBTC said its shelves were, briefly, totally devoid of convalescent plasma units, despite rising requests from hospitals. 

"Tonight, we'll have at least 200 orders pending," Gomez Ngamsuntikul said on Wednesday. "We have around 120 units, but (that's) not enough. We'll still have a number of orders unfulfilled." 

Gomez Ngamsuntikul said they're urging survivors to step up, as Doria Sr. did.

"Every donor matters," she said.

"Someone took time out of their life to donate plasma, who had survived COVID, and gave it to me," Doria said. "How beautiful is that?"

Each day is a gift, and Doria Sr. is using his to give back.

"As long as I save a life, that's all I care about," Doria Sr. said. "Why shouldn't you?"

Potential plasma donors can send an email to COVID19@SouthTexasBlood.org to find out if they qualify or visit southtexasblood.org/covid19 for additional information. Plasma donors cannot schedule to donate as they would a blood donation.

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