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The Blood Connection, MUSC partner to expand community antibody testing effort: MUSC

The Blood Connection, MUSC partner to expand community antibody testing effort

Partnership provides free community COVID-19 antibody testing with blood donation

CHARLESTON, S.C. (May 29, 2020) – The Blood Connection (TBC), a non-profit, community blood center, has partnered with the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) to provide free COVID-19 antibody testing to all TBC donors. This partnership is an extension of the antibody testing efforts underway throughout MUSC Health, including first responders, health care workers and the larger local community.

Those donating whole blood, platelets, plasma and double red cell donations are eligible to receive the free antibody test at the time of donation, which was developed and is powered by the MUSC Center for Cellular Therapy.

“We are so thankful for the opportunity to work with MUSC on providing this testing as a service to our donors,” said Delisa English, President and CEO of TBC.  “TBC donors have been asking for this testing and MUSC is helping to make it possible.”

Satish Nadig, M.D., medical director for the MUSC Center for Cellular Therapy, said MUSC is highly confident in its test because of extensive validation conducted before it began offering the tests.

“These antibody tests show whether people have long-term antibodies to COVID-19, meaning they were exposed to the novel coronavirus and their bodies mounted an immune response,” he said. “What constitutes ‘long-term’ for COVID-19 is still unknown. This test is a great first step in determining community prevalence and future tests will begin to answer the important questions we all have around long-term immunity.”

The novel coronavirus, or SARS-CoV-2, that causes COVID-19 is one of a family of seven coronaviruses that can infect humans. Three have caused serious outbreaks – SARS coronavirus in 2003, MERS coronavirus beginning in 2012 and now SARS-CoV-2, while the other four cause common colds. This new coronavirus shares 88% of its genetic sequence with SARS coronavirus, Nadig said, which is why it was given the derivative name SARS-CoV-2.

Coronaviruses get their name from their crown-like spikes, and these spikes are a key part of the testing. Using blood serum, the first part of the antibody test looks for a reaction to the receptor binding domain portion of the spike. This is the area that allows the virus to bind itself to human cells. Both SARS coronavirus and SARS-CoV-2 bind to the same area, but MERS coronavirus binds to a different area.

A blood sample that tests positive in this first part of the test is considered presumptive positive, Nadig said. That’s because it’s possible the test is actually picking up antibodies to a different coronavirus. Thus, blood samples are subjected to the second part of the test, the confirmatory test, which looks for a reaction to the entire spike protein.

Nadig said the CCT validated the test first with commercial proteins and then with three sets of patient samples. The first set of patient samples was collected before COVID-19 jumped to humans, so the team knew those samples would definitely be negative for antibodies. It also validated the test using samples from patients who had tested negative during COVID-19 diagnostic testing and from patients who had tested positive for COVID-19.

The CCT’s results were then further vetted by the clinical chemistry laboratory at MUSC Health.

People who take an antibody test will get either a positive result, indicating they have antibodies, or a negative result, indicating no antibodies. Researchers are still determining what antibodies mean for the strength of immunity to COVID-19 or how long such immunity might last.

The test is useful at the population level and helps show how much COVID-19 is circulating in the community. It will also help researchers in understanding whether people who have been exposed to COVID-19 are at risk of reinfection. And as tests continue to improve and scientists learn more about SARS-CoV-2, individuals will be better able to make informed decisions about work and community events.

People who are interested in donating blood and getting an antibody test can learn more or make an appointment by calling TBC at 864-255-5005. If interested in hosting a blood drive at a business, church, school, etc., please call 864-751-1166.

Greenwood, home of loyal donors

Greenwood, home of loyal donors

Greenwood donors celebrate milestones 

A few Greenwood donors have gone above and beyond in their blood donation journeys to save hundreds of local lives! These donors are great examples of loyal, local lifesavers. From everyone at TBC, thank you for your continuous blood donations!

Let’s start with Jeanette Templeton (pictured below) who has donated 38 gallons. Her journey began on a personal note, when her best friend’s husband needed blood transfusions years ago. After she started donating, she realized it’s simply the right thing to do for her community. She loves donating at the Greenwood Center because she has made friends with the staff over the years. Templeton was born and raised in Abbeville, SC and went to high school and college there as well. She has two children and five grandchildren and likes to stay active and involved with her family. 

Craig Ticknor (pictured below) has been donating since the 60s. Like Jeanette, he says he knew back then that it was the right thing to do. When we asked him why he donates with TBC, he said: “Blood is a critical part of our lives it’s what keeps people alive.”
 
TBC would also like to thank Wildred Vaudreuil and Vickie Seagle, who have both donated 42 gallons so far. We couldn’t do our life-saving work without you!

TBC Joins Jordan’s Journey

TBC Joins Jordan’s Journey

Jordan’s Journey: #jj33strong

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – In June, 15-year-old Jordan Freeman was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Because blood transfusions are an important part of her treatments, Jordan’s father, Mark Freeman, has led the charge to host blood drives in the area since Jordan’s diagnosis. Mark is is a Spartanburg County Deputy and well known in the community. The hashtag above has been the symbol of Jordan’s fight against the disease.

As her father explained on Facebook about the diagnosis: “She has been put on a 21 day cycle of treatment, days 1-3 is spent in the hospital receiving Chemo meds through an IV Port she had surgically implanted, on days 4-7 she will be at home taking oral meds, on day 8 she will have to go back to the Hospital for additional meds to be given through her port, on days 9-21 she will be home again taking oral meds, then it will start again for 5 cycles, 3 days in the hospital, home, 1 day at the hospital, 7 days at home, etc…We want to thank everyone for their outpouring of love and support, and appreciate all the support we have already received.”

Through the TBC Donor Benefit Plan, donors who gave blood during the “Jordan’s Journey” blood drives will be giving back to Jordan’s recovery by replenishing the local blood supply. Those blood donations will also help Jordan’s family pay for her treatments. At the latest collective blood drive in Jordan’s honor, the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office, Anderson County Sheriff’s Office, and Fox Carolina teamed up. Those blood drives collected 70 donations, enough to help save the lives of more than 200 people, just like Jordan!

Jordan’s unexpected diagnosis is an example of how blood products need to be available at any time, for any patient. That means community donors must give on a regular basis. When Jordan needed blood products, they were available because donors knew it was worth the time to donate blood. TBC is asking the rest of the community to do the same for Jordan and other hospital patients like her in the Upstate.

Find a blood drive near you today. Click here to learn more about the Donor Benefit Plan. To follow along with Jordan Journey, like her Facebook page.

Hurricane Dorian Threatens Local Blood Supply

Hurricane Dorian Threatens Local Blood Supply

Hurricane Dorian Threatens Local Blood Supply

GREENVILLE, S.C. – As evacuations begin for those in the path of Hurricane Dorian, The Blood Connection has also been forced to move its coastal resources out of the Charleston area. Any resources used to collect blood in that area have been moved to Greenville, SC. More blood drives will be added in order to support the areas where TBC is unable to collect donations during the storm. Most likely, Charleston blood drives will be canceled throughout the week since the buses have been moved.

“We are in a critical time window now to get the donations we need before the hurricane so there is no worry about local supply when it hits, wherever it hits,” said TBC President and CEO, Delisa English. “This is an all hands on deck situation for blood donors. Saving lives is TBC’s everyday responsibility and that doesn’t change when the weather does. Local hospital patients are counting on us.”

Blood donations in the Upstate of South Carolina, Western North Carolina, and Raleigh will be even more vital this week to make sure the local blood supply holds steady through the storm. As communities along the East Coast prepare for the hurricane, blood donors in other communities farther inland are being asked to support those unable to donate or have scheduled blood drives because of the hurricane.

TBC will be opening its Anderson Mall location this week as an emergency collections site: Tuesday-Thursday from 3pm-8pm. Donors do not need an appointment.

Buses normally used in the Charleston area have been reassigned to these Upstate locations:

Walmart-Gaffney Tuesday, Sep 3 2-7P
Walmart-Pickens Tuesday, Sep 3 2-7P
Walmart-Taylors Tuesday, Sep 3 2-7P
Furman University (in front of the bookstore) Wednesday, Sep 4 11A-4P
Clemson University (APO @ Core) Wednesday, Sep 4 + Thursday, Sep 5

11A-4P

 

Stay tuned to this page for hours and information about emergency sites. Donors can call 1-800-392-6551 with any questions.

Because of the daily crucial need for blood, TBC must operate 365 days a year. To assure that happens, TBC is a member of two national organizations that focus on disaster preparedness: American Association of Blood Banks (AABB) and Blood Centers of America (BCA). TBC send needed blood products to affected areas in coordination with BCA’s national resource sharing program. TBC will also follow any disaster response guidelines coming from AABB during a state of emergency. Management and staff have been reviewing those guidelines as Dorian approaches. While TBC’s priority is to supply its local hospitals first, it also has a responsibility to help other communities in times of crisis. Thank you to all the blood donors who will step up this week to help through the storm!

“I’ve been given my life back:” Kristen Odom’s Story

“I’ve been given my life back:” Kristen Odom’s Story

Because 25 Blood Donors Gave Her Life

You can tell from her smile that Kristen Odom is full of joy. Just talk to her for 30 seconds, and you’ll find that joy stems from her overwhelming gratitude. She’s happily married with an adorable 2-year-old, Caroline, and loves her job teaching at a local school. Sure, that’s a lot to be thankful for…no wonder she’s so happy!

But talk to her a little bit longer, and it’s clear there’s a reason for that abundant thankfulness. Almost 2 years ago, Odom had complications after her daughter’s delivery. Odom was only able to hold her beautiful newborn baby for several minutes, before she started feeling dizzy. Seconds later, she was whisked away to an operating room with no explanation.

“Everything was super easy, non dramatic, up until it was not.”

Turns out, Odom had been bleeding internally for a while. She had lost a lot of blood. After racing her to the operating room, doctors at Mercy/Bon Secours St. Francis Eastside Hospital immediately started blood transfusions to save her life. All in all, she received more than 25 units of red cells, platelets, and plasma. Those products came from donors with The Blood Connection, the primary blood supplier for the St. Francis-Bon Secours hospital system.

Odom’s husband and brand new dad waited for hours for a head nod from doctors that she was ok. Finally, four hours later…some good news. Doctors had found the source of the bleed and were able to completely replenish Odom’s body with blood products. Once the shock of everything wore off, both Odom and her husband realized that local blood donors had saved her life.

“I would not be here today if that [blood products] wasn’t there…I know that it was because about 25 people donated blood, it saved my life,” said Odom. “I needed so much of it…it was there because there was enough…I’ve been given my life back.”

So yes, Odom and her husband, Brent, are the stop-and-smell-the-roses kind of couple. They understand true gratitude because it lives and breathes in the form of their daughter.

“I often think about it in the little things like we celebrate her birthday, it’s a pretty day outside, or we’re at the beach…this day I get to enjoy because somebody donated blood. I had this overwhelming sense of gratitude…it just still shocks me to this day…here we are, living a completely normal life…because blood was available and they did what they needed to do right away.”

Watching Caroline grow up (too fast) reminds Brent Odom of the moment he thought he might have to raise her alone.

“I remember sitting in the NICU with Caroline that evening…and just remember praying, Lord, I can’t do this alone, so I’m just so thankful that she’s [his wife] here today, because of donors.”

As an O-Negative donor, Brent is now committed to donating blood every time he’s eligible, every 56 days. It’s his way of paying it forward.

Now the Odoms are using their story of survival to spread the message about blood donation. They’re reminded of it when they’re chasing little Caroline around in their quaint Taylors, SC neighborhood or singing Caroline’s favorite song, “The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round,” over and over again. That contagious song may never get out of their heads, and neither will their appreciation for every local blood donor.

Blood donors have the chance to do what others did for the Odoms, every day. Step on a donation bus or into a TBC center and that opportunity awaits.

TBC is here to answer any questions about donating blood. Click here to find a list of center locations and here for a list of upcoming blood drives in the Upstate. To those who already donate, thank you for spreading the love throughout your community! We hope you enjoy a peek into the life of the Odom family below.

Pass it on: Sponsor a youth to go to SpiritFest

Pass it on: Sponsor a youth to go to SpiritFest

In the Spirit of Saving Lives

SpiritFest is making waves in Greenville, SC September 1st at 5PM at the Bon Secours Arena! 

The Blood Connection is giving blood donors the chance to sponsor a youth to go to SpiritFest! Change a life and save one, at the same time. 

Donate blood at any of these blood drives and receive a youth SpiritFest ticket: 

 

  • 08/25 – Poplar Spring Baptist Church: 4-8PM 

  • 08/31 – Phyllis Wheatley Center: 10A-2:00P

TBC will also be at Black Expo on August 9 and 10 with information about hosting a blood drive in the community. Stop by our booth, we’d love to say hi!

The demand for blood never stops. That’s why our blood donors are essential to saving lives. Be the difference for someone in your community! Sickle cell patients especially rely on blood donations every day from the minority population. It’s important to know about the disease and how you can help. Read this article to learn more.

Blood donors must be healthy, weigh at least 110 pounds, and be 17 years old or 16 with written parental consent. Donors must bring a valid photo ID or Donor ID.