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Army general donates COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma at Tripler

Man wearing mask in hospital chair giving blood Army Maj. Gen. Michael Place sits to donate COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma. This was his third time donating since contracting the COVID-19 disease in March. (Photo by Mackenzie Walsh, Tripler Army Medical Center.)

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The COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma (CCP) Collection Program is a Department of Defense effort to obtain 10,000 units CCP with emphasis on blood donations by members of the military community who have recovered from the disease. CCP will be given to critically ill patients, and to support the development of an effective treatment against the disease. Potential donors should visit the Armed Services Blood Program website at: https://www.militaryblood.dod.mil/Donors/COVID-19andBloodDonation.aspx - to find a complete list of available collection centers.

Army Maj. Gen. Michael Place recently sat in chair at the Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii squeezing a red droplet-shaped stress ball. The apheresis machine, which separates plasma from blood, beeped like a video game, echoing something Place had said earlier.

“It’s a virus – we can win.”

COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate against who it infects – even general officers are susceptible.

Place, commanding general of the 18th Medical Command and the U.S. Army Pacific surgeon, contracted COVID-19 in March of this year before coming to Hawaii for his current assignment. He serves as an example of the importance of getting tested even with mild symptoms. He never developed a cough, but experienced a few days of fatigue and was febrile overnight. He stresses the importance of seeking medical guidance and self-isolation to protect your loved ones, even though it is difficult after you no longer feel ill.

Known as COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma – CCP – it’s the liquid part of blood collected from patients who have recovered from the virus and now have antibodies that can be used to help others recover.

This was Place’s third donation of CCP, and his first at Tripler Army Medical Center’s Blood Donor Center. An ardent supporter of the Armed Services Blood Program, Place has been contributing blood and blood products for more than 30 years.

When Place got the call asking him to donate CCP after recovery, he was excited to contribute to the fight and plans to continue donating as long as they let him.

“This is Soldiers and Soldiers’ Families taking care of Soldiers,” Place said.

Convalescent plasma is an additional therapeutic option being used under the Food and Drug Administration’s Investigational New Drug protocol while the world searches for a coronavirus vaccine. The FDA hopes the treatment will improve clinical outcomes in COVID-19 patients. The Defense Health Agency is currently leading an effort to collect 10,000 CCP units by Sept. 30. DHA was halfway towards that goal as of July 30.

After undergoing testing for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, collected units of plasma will be available for the treatment of COVID-positive patients in military treatment facilities, contributing to the readiness of our force and overall research on this virus. Cleared units are then frozen and remain usable for one year.

Similar to blood donation, plasma cannot be universally donated and units are only compatible with certain blood types.

“The more stockpiles we get filled up, the more lives we can potentially save,” explained Army 1st Lt. Joshua Boggess, officer in charge of the Tripler Blood Donor Center.

The donation process takes a bit longer than a standard blood donation of five to ten minutes. Donating plasma takes just under an hour of collection time. After determining eligibility, staff checks vital signs to ensure patients are healthy enough to donate.

“You sit in this comfortable chair for a little while, they take the plasma from you,” Place said, “and give you some cookies and snacks and some departure gifts.”

To learn more about the Military Health System’s Convalescent Plasma Collection Program, visit https://go.usa.gov/xf8h5. Watch 1st Lt. Joshua Boggess discuss the basics of CCP here: https://www.dvidshub.net/video/761845/covid-convalescent-plasma

For more info on donating, visit www.militaryblood.dod.mil.

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