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Norton Healthcare seeks coronavirus survivors for clinical trial

Healthcare professionals at Norton are feeling optimistic that the convalescent plasma could help heal those who are critically ill from coronavirus.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Norton Healthcare is asking patients who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate plasma that may help treat high-risk patients.

Healthcare professionals at Norton are feeling optimistic that the convalescent plasma could help heal those who are critically ill from coronavirus. 

“While this is very, very encouraging, and while similar treatments have proven to be quite effective in similar viral illnesses, this is a clinical trial. Patients and their families will have to give informed consent,” explained Dr. Don Stevens, a hematologist/oncologist with Norton Cancer Institute.

Convalescent plasma has been used over the past several years to treat severe illnesses such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), avian influenza and Ebola virus.

“This is an exciting method to provide a passive immunity to infected individuals who are unable to mount a response to fight the infection,” said Joseph M. Flynn, D.O., MPH, FACP, chief administrative officer, Norton Medical Group, and physician-in-chief, Norton Cancer Institute. 

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Stevens and Flynn are working together with Norton Healthcare and the American Red Cross to transfuse donated plasma to those who are severely compromised. 

“We had two individuals donate yesterday and we hope to treat minimum four people in the next 24 hours with the plasma,” Dr. Stevens explained on Thursday.

One donor can help up to three people. Vanderbilt graduate and Louisville native, Gillian O’Leary didn’t think twice about becoming part of this experimental treatment. 

“I am so lucky, and I want to give back however I can,” she explained. 

The 21-year-old had body aches and headaches that lasted a week. Once she got healthy, she looked into donating her plasma. 

“I hope the outcome is that everyone on ventilators, whether they have my plasma or not, can get healthy and back home with their families soon.”

To take part in the Norton Healthcare expanded convalescent plasma study, potential donors must have had a positive COVID-19 test, and must be symptom-free for at least 28 days with a follow-up antibody test or symptom-free for 14 days with a negative COVID-19 follow-up test. Additional requirements, such as those associated with any blood donation, also apply.

If you have recovered from COVID-19 and want to volunteer as a plasma donor with Norton Healthcare: Call (502) 446-2688.

The same effort is also being considered by UK HealthCare and Baptist Health, in partnership with the Kentucky Blood Center. 

Kentucky has one of the smaller populations of COVID-19 patients in the U.S., so it’s even more important that recovered patients step up and donate plasma if they can, says Dr. Dennis Williams, associate professor of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine in University of Kentucky’s College of Medicine and medical director of the Kentucky Blood Center.

The Kentucky Blood Center is also ready to start collecting from donors who have had the appropriate COVID-19 testing completed and meet all other eligibility criteria, according to Williams. 

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