According to the Food and Drug Administration, those who have fought the infection now have COVID-19 antibodies in their plasma. As of now, no cure has been found to treat the virus.

After overcoming COVID-19, Shawn Raney is back to doing what he loves--- saving lives--- and in more ways than one. When health officials put out a call for novel coronavirus disease survivors to donate plasma to help others still suffering, Raney answered the call.

“I’m just trying to get the world out and tell people to donate,” he said. “As soon as I found out it was a possibility, I was looking forward to being able to donate.”

According to the Food and Drug Administration, those who have fought the infection now have COVID-19 antibodies in their plasma. As of now, no cure has been found to treat the virus. However, the convalescent plasma is being investigated as a plausible treatment for it. During Monday’s press conference with the governor, Dr. Nate Smith, secretary of the state Department of Health, discussed the benefits of survivors coming forward to donate blood.

“It’s a strategy that’s been used for a number of other infectious diseases successfully and we are doing that here,” said Smith. “We are one of the first states to set up a donation program and we actually encourage all of those who have recovered from COVID-19 infection to consider donating plasma, because this can be hopefully life-saving.”

Smith further revealed that health officials have seen “positive results on a case-by-case basis” with the use of the plasma on severely ill patients.

“We’ve had a number of patients who have received convalescent plasma here in the state--- hospitalized patients who are very ill and at least the reports I have received from the physicians is that a number of them have shown clinical improvement,” he said.

To donate plasma, donors can visit the Arkansas Blood Institute. Donors must meet specific criteria including a prior diagnosis of COVID-19 documented by a laboratory test, be symptom-free 14 days prior to the donation, test negative for COVID-19 and eligible to provide blood. Once it’s determined one can give, plasma will be drawn up to three therapeutic plasma doses.

“We’re excited to play our part in ensuring patients have access to all treatment options including convalescent plasma,” said Dr. John Armitage, president and CEO of Arkansas Blood Institute. “As the local community blood supplier, we can quickly collect donor information and work with our hospital partners to ensure anyone who wants to help a neighbor has that opportunity.”

Raney knew something appeared wrong when he spiked a temperature of 102.5. It was in that moment, the Jefferson Regional registered nurse called in to work in order to get tested for the virus.

“At this point, we had already had the first patient in Arkansas test positive and we also already had a couple hospital employees that were out and waiting on their tests to come back,” he said.

The 44-year-old Woodlawn resident also began experiencing other symptoms related to COVID-19 in addition to the high fever.

“So, I started out with just a stuffy nose, itchy throat, very little cough, fever and then it progressed to migraine headaches that lasted days,” he said. “I was vomiting for about four days. Tylenol was basically all I ever really took and I was taking that the whole time and my fever didn’t break.”

Raney, who identifies as half white and half Hispanic, admitted he knew he was considered a high risk for contracting the virus being a minority. But, he believed he wouldn’t get it.

“I’ve made it through SARS,” he said. “I made it through H1N1 and the bird flu back when we had that. I made it through when Ebola was going on even though we really didn’t have cases down here. I just didn’t think I’d be a statistic.”

After nearly a week, Raney’s symptoms subsided.

“At first, I was kind of angry and asking ‘why me?’,” he said. “I’m doing what I feel like I’ve been called to do, which is take care of people and serve and then I came down with a virus. But, like other trials in my life, I wasn’t alone in that walk. I had God, I had my family and I got through it.”

Raney also thanked God for protecting his family as he battled through his sickness.

“There was a hedge of protection around them,” he said. “They didn’t get sick. And now, I’m getting to help others. I’m not saying God made me get sick. But, he’s taking something good out of that bad that happened to me by allowing me to help others by donating my plasma.”

Based on numbers provided by the Arkansas Department of Health, at least 987 residents have recovered from the virus and 3,017 have tested positive for it. Smith couldn’t immediately provide exact numbers for those who have donated plasma in the state.

“Don’t be afraid of the stigma that’s going to come along with letting people know that you had it,” said Raney. “Just the feeling of knowing that you have saved somebody’s life is so much better and greater than that fear of rejection from those folks that are kind of uneducated on it. But, it’s worth it.”

For survivors interested in donating, visit my.bio-linked.org to sign up for the donor registry.