Social media has been flooded with messages from desperate family members of Covid-19 patients, who have been sending innumerable requests seeking convalescent plasma. Several blood banks in the city have also seen rise in demand for convalescent plasma in the last few months. The immediate response to these pleas for help by some dedicated NGOs, which worked selflessly to encourage Covid-recovered patients to donate plasma, has been heartening.
The Indian Council of Medical Research had, on April 22, updated the treatment protocol and said off-label use of convalescent plasma may be considered in cases of early moderate coronavirus infection, preferable within seven days of symptoms and in specific circumstances. Experts in the national Covid-19 task force have also said the timing of the administering drugs, be it remdesivir or even convalescent plasma, is important while treating moderately-ill Covid 19 patients.
At Sahyadri Hospitals, senior consultant Dr Purnima Roa said throughout the pandemic, some NGOs along with voluntary donors have come forward to help the hospital find plasma donors. “We have requested those who have donated plasma earlier to come forward and donate after a 14-day interval if possible. Till date, we have done 620 procedures and have issued 1,240 units. The feedback given to us by clinicians was majority of patients have benefited and quick patient recovery was also seen,” said Dr Rao.
Dr Anand Chaphekar, who is in charge at KEM Hospital’s blood bank, said plasma can be effective in those with mild to moderate symptoms but is of no use for severe and critically- ill Covid-19 patients. “We have done 347 procedures… 100 in the last month.. There was shortage of remdesivir and hence other options like convalescent plasma therapy were looked at,” he said.
According to Dr Snehal Mujumdar, in charge of Ruby Hall Clinic’s blood bank, whenever there is a requirement, several NGOs have risen to the occasion.
One of the NGOs is SPG Foundation, run by Vipul Gundecha. Vipul, who lost his mother Suvarna three years ago, recalls her efforts in organising blood donation camps. His late father was also a social activist and worked towards welfare of needy persons. “We set up a team and requested those who had recovered from Covid-19 to donate their blood plasma,” he said.
Till date, his foundation has been able to motivate more than 750 perople to donate plasma. “Last fortnight, we organised a plasma donation camp and were happy to see some of the recovered Covid patients coming for the third time to donate,” said Gundecha.
Their selfless deeds and dedicated service have helped save several lives. Another such organisation is Raktache Naate, run by Ram Bangad who, after recovering from Covid-19, has donated plasma 14 times. “I will donate blood plasma for the 15th time on May 7,” said Bangad, who has also donated blood 133 times and blood platelets 21 times.
“The issue of blood donation has been close to my heart and in last one year of the pandemic, I have lost count of the number of calls for arranging blood plasma for Covid patients,” Bangad said. At their organisation, more than 800 such Covid-recovered patients have been encouraged to donate blood plasma in the last year.
Another Pune-based NGO, Mizhi Charitable Trust, has set up a help desk to guide relatives of affected Covid patients on information about availability of plasma, remdesivir and other medicines, said Arun Krishna, president of the trust.
Advocate Charmaine Lazarus, president of the Poona Goan Institute said they were also organising a blood and plasma donation camp in association with KEM Hospital on May 10, and encouraged recovered persons to donate.