When Shannon Tully hangs up a bag of convalescent plasma by a COVID-19 patient’s bedside at Forbes Hospital, she can’t help but wonder if the plasma came from her. A nurse in the ICU ward where COVID patients are treated, Shannon has donated her plasma multiple times since being diagnosed with COVID in April and recovering from it a few weeks later.

“I’m happy to be here. I feel lucky that I can do this. Anyone I work with would do the same,” Shannon said as she sat in the donor chair at Vitalant’s Greentree location in August, making her eighth donation.

Shannon assumes she contracted the virus at work. After a three-day stint in the COVID unit, she was eating dinner at home and suddenly couldn’t taste the food. “It was that quick – that instantaneous,” she said.

Other than losing her taste and smell, she had mild symptoms like a slight sore throat and runny nose – no cough, fever or severe fatigue. Shannon was able to return to work after her quarantine period, although the loss of taste and smell lingered several weeks longer.

Approached at work about donating convalescent plasma as part of an experimental treatment program for COVID patients, Shannon was happy to be able to help. She saw firsthand how convalescent plasma seemed to benefit some of the more seriously ill COVID patients.

Shannon says she’ll keep coming back as long as she has the COVID antibodies, and probably beyond. “If I still have all these antibodies, and I see patients who seem to have done better why not keep doing it?” she said. “And, I enjoy coming here, the staff is wonderful. I’m so used to donating now, I think I’ll keep coming even after I can’t donate convalescent plasma anymore.”

Convalescent plasma is currently one of the few treatments available for COVID patients, and there is an emergency need for donors. Vitalant, formerly Central Blood Bank, is collecting convalescent plasma at its 10 locations in the Pittsburgh area, including the South Hills location at The Manor Building, 4701 Baptist Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15227. If you’ve recovered from COVID and would like to donate convalescent plasma, visit vitalant.org/covidfree to see if you are eligible.

Blood donations of all types are constantly needed to keep up with patients’ needs at local hospitals – 600 a day. With pandemic-related closures anticipated to continue through the fall, the community’s help is needed more than ever to make sure blood is available for patients in local hospitals.

For more information about donating blood or hosting a blood drive, please call 877-25-VITAL or visit vitalant. org. If you can’t donate blood, please consider a financial contribution to the Blood Science Center. More information is available at bloodsciencefoundation.org.

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