Feature   Defense News

Marines Donate Plasma in Fight Against COVID-19

July 23, 2020 | BY Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Jacob L. Greenberg

Marines assigned to Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego in California who have tested positive for COVID-19 donated plasma at Naval Medical Center San Diego.

A phlebotomist drawing and testing blood.
Blood Sample
Sarahi Wilson, a phlebotomist assigned to Naval Medical Center San Diego, Calif., draws blood from a volunteer, July 14, 2020. The medical center employs more than 6,000 active duty military personnel, civilians and contractors in Southern California.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Erwin Jacob Miciano
VIRIN: 200714-N-VI515-1011A

In support of the development of an effective treatment, The Defense Department launched a campaign in late May to collect 8,000 units of plasma from patients who have recovered from COVID-19.

"The hope is that these Marines who have tested positive and recovered from COVID-19 will have developed antibodies," said Ellyn Alcantara, a clinical nurse assigned to the medical center's blood donor center. "These antibodies could lead to developments in a treatment for COVID-19."

All of the Marines volunteered to donate their plasma with the hope that their antibodies will help others.

"It makes me feel good to be a part of the solution to this pandemic," said Marine Corps Pfc. Xavier Flores, a recent donor.

A Marine gets blood drawn while lying in a hospital bed.
Blood Donation
A phlebotomist draws blood from Marine Corps Pfc. Johnny Cadengo at Naval Medical Center San Diego, July 14, 2020, to collect convalescent COVID-19 plasma.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Erwin Jacob V. Miciano
VIRIN: 200714-N-VI515-1042M

Upon arriving at the donor center, the Marines were given a medical health screening to determine their donor eligibility. Once they are cleared to donate plasma, a complete blood count and hematocrit test ensures the proportion of red blood cells in the body is optimal for donation and would have no adverse effects on the donor.

"A transfusion transmissible infection test will be performed on all donors as a part of their screening process," said Navy Lt. Therica Reynolds, the officer in charge of the medical center's Blood Donor Center. "We're trying to maximize our plasma collection and do our part for patient care."

Reynolds said apheresis — the plasma donation process — takes about an hour from the beginning of the screening process to the end of the collection. Convalescent COVID-19 plasma, or CCP, from recovered COVID-19-positive patients has been used at the medical center to help symptomatic patients recover.

A phlebotomist drawing and testing blood.
Drawing Blood
Sarahi Wilson, a phlebotomist assigned to Naval Medical Center San Diego, Calif., draws blood to test for viral markers and blood typing, July 14, 2020. The medical center employs more than 6,000 active duty military personnel, civilians and contractors in Southern California.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Erwin Jacob Miciano
VIRIN: 200714-N-VI515-1014A

"A qualified donor is eligible to donate every 28 days, and one person can potentially donate four doses, or bags, of CCP per visit," Reynolds said. "We highly encourage potential donors to make an appointment for one of our five apheresis machines. Anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 and has recovered is encouraged to come into our [donation center] and get screened to donate."

NMCSD's mission is to prepare service members to deploy in support of operational forces, deliver high quality healthcare services and shape the future of military medicine through education, training and research. It employs more than 6,000 active duty military personnel, civilians and contractors.

(Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Jacob L. Greenberg is assigned to Naval Medical Center San Diego.)