ATLANTA - Clay Bentley was one of the first Georgians to be diagnosed with COVID-19, and he is one of the first in the state to donate plasma to patients who are currently fighting off the virus.
Bentley, who spent 11 days hospitalized at Redmond Regional Medical Center in Rome in early March, recently rolled up his sleeve at Blood Assurance, a local blood services agency, to donate plasma.
It was a little unnerving, the 59-year-old says.
“The first time I did it, it took me back to the hospital, where I was lying in a bed, hooked up to all these machines," Bentley says. "My first experience, it just took me back, and it was kind of hard on me,”
But Bentley has come to realize, as a survivor of COVID-19, he may be able to offer a powerful weapon to newly-infected Georgians battling this virus.
"I had to fight it, I had to fight it, and I know that I have, in my blood, the antibodies that know how to fight this disease," he says. "It just goes into them and immediately begins fighting for them. It gives me great honor knowing that I am helping someone else.”
Bentley, who believes he was one of close to 50 people who contracted the virus as a mass choir celebration in Cartersville on March 1, 2020, chose to donate plasma through a new non-profit, Plasma Therapy.
Rome radiologist Dr. Matt McClain created Plasma Therapy to recruit donors, coordinating the collection of plasma with Blood Assurance, and deliver the plasma to two area hospitals, Floyd Medical Center and Redmond Regional Medical Center.
So far, Dr. McClain says 15 ICU patients at the two hospitals have received a total 21 units of donor plasma.
They range in age from 36 to 95.
McClain's organization has lined up 16 to 18 additional donors, who are scheduled to give plasma Tuesday at a Blood Assurance collection site.
More people who have recovered from COVID-19 are being asked to donate their plasma (Photo: FOX 5 Atlanta).
This is part of a convalescent plasma COVID-19 study led by Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.
Dr. McClain says, they are "cautiously" hopeful.
He says their early data lines up with two small early case studies in China, where 24 COVID-19 patients, who were given plasma, experienced a drop in blood inflammatory markers and required lower doses of supplemental oxygen.
Clay Bentley says he never thought twice about donating his plasma.
"To know that you have a commodity on inside you, that could help other people get through this, I don’t see how you could not do it," he says.
Bentley will donate once a week, and has been told each donation could help 3 to 4 patients with a matching blood type.
There are no guarantees the plasma will help.
But he sees this as a chance to give thanks for his own survival.
It’s just emotional," he says. "Just knowing that you can help someone else. You know, I have to do it. "
If you think you have had COVID-19 and wish to donate your plasma, you have to meet certain criteria.
You have to be at least 17 years of age, weigh at least 110 pounds, have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and have fully-recovered.
For more on how to donate plasma, visit www.plasmatx.org or https://www.redcrossblood.org/donate-blood/dlp/plasma-donations-from-recovered-covid-19-patients.html
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