Long-term sub donates plasma for COVID-19 patients



The We Are Blood facility where Mr. Wilkinson donates blood.

Brianne Chase, Staff reporter

This past spring, one of Vandegrift’s long-term subs, Brad Wilkinson, discovered that he had COVID-19 antibodies after participating in a blood drive at Cedar Park High School. Since then, Wilkinson has made several COVID-19 plasma donations so that his antibodies can be used in open heart surgeries or as treatment for critical COVID-19 patients. Along with his own personal contributions, Wilkinson would like to educate and encourage others who can donate to do so themselves.

“My goal on this is to somehow encourage some more people to go out there, because it is very beneficial, and it does work [as a treatment],” Wilkinson said.

Platelet donation involves a filtration process of the donor’s blood that cools it off below body temperature, and so Wilkinson recommends bringing a blanket and/or dressing warmer, as blankets cannot be provided due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“I have a tendency to cramp up in the feet [and] the calves, because my body temperature is being lowered, so you definitely want to take a blanket, [and maybe] those little hand warmers, I think they can give those out [now],” Wilkinson said.

He also recommends taking calcium and potassium before donating, as well as drinking lots of water up until a few hours before, since the donation process takes between 70 minutes and 2 hours, and you won’t be able to use the restroom. He also strongly recommends looking away when getting the shot. 

“I’ve gone with some guys before, marines, that have sat there and watched–one passed out, because he was watching it,” Wilkinson said. “I wiggle my toes, [it] takes your mind off of what’s going on–and it doesn’t hurt that bad.”

Donors should also come prepared to keep themselves distracted during the shot and blood withdrawal.

“Bring your phone, so you can watch a movie, or [a book to read],” Wilkinson said. “Just make yourself as distracted and entertained as possible. And there you’re saving some lives”

Though Wilkinson said he wasn’t quite sure when he caught the virus–he hadn’t felt sick–it may have been from passengers he picked up from the airport when he was driving for  Uber. Wilkinson believes he’s asymptomatic, but said that he’ll probably still take the vaccine when it comes out.

“When they do come out with the vaccine, there’s a high [chance] that I’ll take [it], because it’s protecting fellow students and fellow teachers, from getting COVID,” Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson makes his plasma donations at the We Are Blood building on Lamar Boulevard. According to Wilkinson, most of the blood drives done via trailer or RV don’t bring the extra equipment for COVID-19 antibody testing or donation, and so those wanting to donate for that purpose should try to donate at a fully equipped facility instead.

“They rarely bring those machines out,” Wilkinson said. “It was just really unusual at Cedar Park there that Friday, that they did have a machine there, because they normally don’t.”

Anyone who qualifies for COVID-19 plasma donation can donate if they’re healthy and at least 16 years old. 16 and 17-year-olds must weigh at least 125 pounds and have signed parental permission, and anyone ages 18 and older has to weigh at least 110 pounds. Those interested in donating can find more information at the We Are Blood website.

“My ideal  is, I really don’t like shots, but if it’s helping save some lives, then yeah, I’ll suffer a little bit,” Wilkinson said.