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First convalescent plasma donor in Atlantic Canada just wanted to do the right thing

Percy Wilbur of Saint John, New Brunswick was eager to give back once he recovered from COVID-19. The 57-year-old property developer was blown away by the care he and his family received by health care workers and wanted to do what he could to show his appreciation. 

Inspiration
May 15, 2020

Percy Wilbur of Saint John donates convalescent plasma, with nurses Karla Campbell (right) and Jo-Elle Nordstrom (left) tending to him

Stories-Paragraph-Percy

“When hearing about the pain and suffering others have endured from COVID-19, I felt I needed to help in any way I could,” said Percy. “I first offered to volunteer at the hospital, but they didn’t need volunteers. I read that donating plasma may be a benefit to COVID-19 patients ... which led me here.” 

Here, is Canadian Blood Services’ donor centre in Saint John. On May 14, Percy donated his plasma for CONCOR, a national clinical trial to test the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 convalescent plasma as a possible treatment option for patients with the virus.

Canadian Blood Services is leading the national convalescent plasma collection program and has been recruiting potential convalescent plasma donors across the country through its new online registry.

Percy is the first to donate convalescent plasma for the trial in the Atlantic region and the 13th in Canada. The first convalescent plasma donation took place in Vancouver, B.C. on April 29.

Percy was a regular, whole blood donor before COVID-19. He started when he was an army engineer because the army encouraged blood donation. “It just became something I did,” he says. “Why would someone not donate and help where they can?”

Then he got sick. Upon returning from a Caribbean cruise, his family of four developed varying COVID-19 symptoms.

“My youngest daughter simply had the sniffles for a day or two, my wife was sick for a day while I had a headache, sore throat and night sweats,” he said.

“My eldest daughter had an uncontrollable cough that was quite worrisome. In any other circumstance, we would have dismissed our illnesses as mild colds. However, given the fear of COVID-19, we called public health. We did test positive; however, our symptoms didn’t worsen and we all recovered within days.”

Now that he is on the other side of the virus and healthy, he sees the opportunity of using plasma from the recovered to help the sick as a “no-brainer”.

“If you have the opportunity to help, why wouldn’t you? It’s the right thing to do.”

How to be a convalescent plasma donor

More convalescent plasma donors, like Percy, may donate at one of 14 Canadian Blood Services donor centres that have the capability to collect blood components, like plasma, through a process called apheresis. These donor centres are located in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg, London, Hamilton, Toronto, Ottawa, St. John’s, Charlottetown, Saint John and Halifax.

A convalescent plasma donation is the same as a plasma donation; however, a specific donor is needed for this clinical trial. In addition to meeting Canada’s current plasma donor eligibility criteria, convalescent plasma donors must be younger than 67 years of age, previously confirmed positive for COVID-19 by a laboratory test, and fully recovered from the virus and symptom-free for at least 28 days to participate. Donors must also live within driving distance of a donor centre located in one of the aforementioned cities.

Anyone who meets these requirements is encouraged to join Canadian Blood Services’ online registry. Additional testing will be done at the time of collection to ensure there are adequate antibodies against the COVID-19 virus in the donor’s plasma to be part of the trial.

Registered convalescent plasma donors who may be eligible are being contacted now and all convalescent plasma donation appointments are being booked as donors are qualified to participate by Canadian Blood Services’ Centre for Innovation which oversees research and development for the organization. Patients with COVID-19 who are looking for more information on convalescent plasma as a treatment option are encouraged to visit COVID19.ca

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