CSL Plasma paying Rhode Islanders for COVID-19 plasma donations

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Rhode Island residents who have recovered from COVID-19 can make a decent payday while contributing to a good cause.

CSL Plasma in Johnston is offering $100 per donation for donors who can produce results of a positive COVID-19 test and have been symptom-free for 14 days. Manager Renee Keyser told the Sun Rise during a phone interview on Tuesday morning that folks can donate twice a week, which could net them up to $800 a month for as long as antibodies remain present.

“Their antibodies are used to make convalescent plasma, which is basically a plasma with antibodies in it to help treat current patients with COVID,” Keyser said Tuesday. “We also do antibody testing to make sure there’s enough antibodies to successfully treat someone. The motto we have is, ‘good for you, great for life.’ Right now, it truly is.”

Keyser said plasma donations are bit different than drawing blood, since red blood cells are returned to the patient. Regular plasma donations net $65 for the first five, and Keyser noted they are usually used to create therapies for patients with bleeding disorders like hemophilia.

Those rates have been increase to help the Ocean State amid a raging pandemic. Despite Rhode Island’s high coronavirus rates, Keyser said only 31 people are enrolled in the plasma program.

People interested in taking part must participate in a health screening during their first visit, which Keyser said lasts between 90 minutes and two hours. After that, each donation takes about an hour. She said CSL Plasma follows strict COVID-19 safety protocols, including “enhanced cleaning,” masks and social distancing.

Keyser said no appointments are necessary, but potential donors must produce a picture ID, proof of address and proof of their Social Security number.

“We really kind of nailed down our process here for that,” Keyser said. “I came here in the middle of COVID, I worked at a hospital for 20 years. This is a totally different environment with a different vibe … I know just how impactful we can be. The reach is easy, but getting there is hard. Everyone knows someone who has had it … These people know how to give back, and this is definitely the way to do it.”

Keyser said plenty of donors in the program have taken part because a loved one close to them has battled a rough case of the virus. She said, though, that some are driven by the sinking economy.

“It’s sort of a win-win, I don’t like to say it like that, but that’s how it is,” Keyser said. “They’re out of work, and something has hampered their ability to get anything. You can come in and be a lifesaver, and we’ll give you $100. It’s very hard to get the word out. No one really knows what to do. As much as we try to advertise for it, no one really knows what it is.”

CSL has been trying to spread the word, but awareness remains low. Keyser said an older couple walked in to the business the other day looking to buy a television, evidently mistaking the name for an electronics store.

“It’s been difficult. It is a great community service,” Keyser said. “It’s an easy process, it makes you feel good, you leave getting your cells back and donations can be done twice a week. It’s different than going in and donating every eight weeks or 16 weeks. The thing that people don’t realize is they get paid for donations. They leave with a debit card, the funds are added to them before they leave the building … the COVID program is such a great program that no one is aware of.”

Keyser said giving back to the state’s residents is gratifying work. Given that Rhode Island has one of the highest coronavirus rates in the country, there could be more folks walking through the door to aid the fight.

“It’s fantastic,” Keyser said of helping in the battle against COVID-19. “We made sure our employees know that heroes work here, we’ve taken the motto that heroes donate here [too]. What we’re doing is making an impact on a daily basis, and when you can look at the big picture and know what you’re doing is so far more than a job … it’s rewarding to all our employees.”

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