New Brunswick man first to donate convalescent plasma in Atlantic Canada

Click to play video: 'N.B. man is first in Atlantic Canada to donate convalescent plasma' N.B. man is first in Atlantic Canada to donate convalescent plasma
WATCH: Canadian Blood Services is testing out convalescent plasma as treatment for patients with COVID-19. Percy Wilbur from Saint John was the first donor in Atlantic Canada – May 15, 2020

A New Brunswick man said his effort to assist those suffering from COVID-19 was very easy. All that he had to do was donate his plasma.

On Thursday, Atlantic Canada collected its first donation of COVID-19 convalescent plasma, particles of blood from a person who has recovered from the virus.

Percy Wilbur of Saint John, N.B., was the first donor.

“It was a piece of cake, no more than giving blood,” Wilbur said. “If it could help someone, why would you not.”

READ MORE: COVID-19 survivors’ blood could help others beat the disease, scientists hope

Wilbur was diagnosed with COVID-19 after returning from a Caribbean cruise. His wife and two young children also tested positive.

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His family was treated by Horizon Health and N.B. Public Health.

“They checked every member of my family daily,” Wilbur said. “It was just a really good experience, knowing we were in such caring hands.”

Click to play video: 'Canadian Blood Services need donors amid COVID-19 pandemic' Canadian Blood Services need donors amid COVID-19 pandemic
Canadian Blood Services need donors amid COVID-19 pandemic – May 14, 2020

After Wilbur and his family recovered and self-quarantined for three weeks, they wanted to give back.

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He said his family even volunteered to help out at the hospital, they were willing to do whatever they could to help.

“In the end that’s not what they needed… What they were looking for was some experiments that were coming up in the future, mainly this plasma donation,” said Wilbur.

Convalescent plasma is gathered through apheresis, a process where the donor’s blood is passed through a machine that separates the antibody from the blood and circulates the blood back into the body.

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READ MORE: No new cases of coronavirus found in New Brunswick on Thursday

A specific donor was needed for the Canadian Blood Services trial of convalescent plasma. Wilbur checked off every box required.

He is under 67 years old, was previously confirmed positive for COVID-19 by lab test and had fully recovered from the virus for at least 28 days. He even lived within driving distance of a donor centre.

That’s why it didn’t take long for Wilbur to agree to donate.

“I’m honestly a little bit embarrassed by the attention I’m getting, you’d think I gave a kidney,” he said.

Wilbur hopes anyone who is eligible participates.

Click to play video: 'Bonspiel physicians to donate plasma as part of COVID-19 clinical trial' Bonspiel physicians to donate plasma as part of COVID-19 clinical trial
Bonspiel physicians to donate plasma as part of COVID-19 clinical trial – Apr 24, 2020

Canadian Blood Services has partnered with CONCOR, a nation-wide clinical trial, to test out the use of convalescent plasma to treat patients infected with COVID-19.

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Peter MacDonald, Canadian Blood Services Director of Donor Relations, Atlantic, said this is not a preventative measure like a vaccine would be. It’s for treating people who are already ill.

The effectiveness of using convalescent plasma to treat COVID-19 has not been proved yet. But, MacDonald is hopeful.

“In 1919, during the influenza outbreak, in what was referred to at that time as the Spanish Flu, convalescent plasma was used… so hopefully it will turn out to be something that’s effective.”

There are 14 Canadian Blood Services donor centres collecting convalescent plasma, located in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg, London, Hamilton, Toronto, Ottawa, St. John’s, Charlottetown, Saint John and Halifax.

According to the press release, Canadian Blood Services, with 50 participating hospitals, are contacting registered plasma donors who may be eligible.

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