PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Survivors of COVID-19 can help treat those battling the respiratory illness by donating blood.  

The American Red Cross is looking for recovered COVID-19 patients willing to donate convalescent plasma. While the use of convalescent plasma hasn’t yet been approved for use by the FDA, federal officials are investigating its potential to treat ill patients

Convalescent plasma has been used to study outbreaks of other respiratory infections, like SARS and MERS epidemics and the H1N1pandemic. Convalescent plasma taken from people who have had these illnesses—and recovered—contain antibodies to their respective viruses. 

KOIN 6 News first reported about the need for COVID-19 convalescent plasma on Tuesday. An Oregon nurse named Jose Jimenez who became sick with the coronavirus last month was in desperate need of a donation of a rare blood type: AB positive. Jose’s condition declined and he was transferred to a Portland ICU to be put on life support on Monday. 

Jose’s wife, Holly, said her husband has since received a unit of convalescent plasma. 

“He had a steady day with improvement in his vital signs and lab results,” she said, adding that Jose “will not need additional units at this time.”

Those interested in donating convalescent plasma through the American Red Cross can learn more by clicking here. Donors must be at least 17 years old and have a verified COVID-19 diagnosis, be symptom-free and fully recovered.

Bloodworks NW is also collecting convalescent plasma from donors who have been symptom-free for at least 28 days. The donations are being used for a new drug study.

“The FDA is asking us to distribute the plasma that way so that when this is over we will know what is working and what isn’t,” said Dr. Rebecca Haley, the medical director at Bloodworks NW. “There is evidence that probably over 80% have a large number of antibodies—those are the proteins that we make to fight off disease.”

So far, Bloodworks NW has screened about 350 people who are qualified to donate convalescent plasma. It expects to have 30 units collected by the end of this week as the program gets underway.

“If you can help, please help. This is a time when we all need to help each other the best way we can,” said Haley.

And there is always a need for blood donations from people who have not had COVID-19. Find the donation center nearest you