LifeSouth in need of convalescent plasma, to host blood drives in Lanett and Valley

Published 6:44 am Friday, August 27, 2021

In a recent press release, LifeSouth Community Blood Centers, a nonprofit blood bank serving local hospitals, announced that it has restarted testing all eligible blood donors for COVID-19 antibodies. Doing so will help LifeSouth identify donors who could potentially donate convalescent plasma, which would be from people who have recovered from COVID-19 and helps anyone currently fighting the virus.

Melinda Hinds, District Community Development Coordinator at LifeSouth Community Blood Centers – South Alabama District, said that LifeSouth has reinstated this process due to a surge in demand for convalescent plasma from hospitals.

She said it typically takes 24 to 48 hours for LifeSouth to test someone’s blood to make sure it’s safe and contains antibodies.

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“Once we know that, we do call and let the donor know and then ask them over the phone if they would like to donate the convalescent plasma,” Hinds said. “And at that point, we would set up an appointment for them to come in and do that at one of our donor centers.”

In addition to donating plasma at LifeSouth’s nearby Opelika center, Hinds said people in the Lanett and Valley area could potentially donate convalescent plasma on bloodmobiles that are closer to their homes. However, they must schedule appointments in order to do this. She explained that people can only donate convalescent plasma on bloodmobiles if the vehicles are set up in advance with plasma machines and staffed with specially-trained technicians. LifeSouth may equip a bloodmobile with this equipment if they know ahead of time that someone whose blood tested positive for antibodies is willing to donate plasma at that location.

Hinds said that if a person knows they’ve recovered from COVID-19, they still have to go through the same process of first donating blood or platelets and having it tested for the strength of their antibodies before they can donate convalescent plasma.

Donors must be fully recovered from COVID-19 and symptom-free for two weeks before donating blood. While people can donate whole blood to LifeSouth every 56 days, Hinds said that if their blood tests positive for COVID-19 antibodies, they only have to wait seven days to give plasma.

“Healthy blood donors who may have been exposed to or recovered from COVID-19 are asked to donate as soon as they have completed the recommended CDC quarantine guidelines,” said the press release. “There is no deferral period for donors who have received the Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.”

LifeSouth’s antibody test is authorized for use by the FDA. While a positive test result may indicate past exposure and some immunity to the virus, the test isn’t diagnostic. It can’t determine if the person tested currently has COVID-19 or if they were exposed to the Delta variant.

LifeSouth bloodmobiles and donor centers are cleaned and have safety precautions in place to protect blood donors and staff.

To donate blood or convalescent plasma, visit www.lifesouth.org or call 888-795-2707 to schedule an appointment. 

“There’s a tab on there that says ‘find a blood drive,’ Hinds said, “and they can put in their zip code and find a blood drive that’s coming up near them and what the hours are and where it’s located.”

Hinds also said there’s a “host a blood drive” tab on the website for those who want to host blood drives.

There will be four LifeSouth mobile blood drives in the Valley and Lanett area in the near future, according to LifeSouth’s website. One will be at the East Alabama Fire Department on Fob James Drive in Valley on Sept. 1 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Another will be at the Kroger on S. Gilmer Street in Lanett on Sept. 3 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Another will be at the Apartments at The Verandas on Sydney Street in Valley on Sept. 8 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and another will be at Givorn’s Foods on Fairfax Bypass in Valley on Sept. 18 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.