COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. — A local firefighter is answering NCH's plea for convalescent plasma donations.
Hospitals in Southwest Florida have been urging people with COVID-19 antibodies to donate their plasma in hopes of helping others recover from the virus.
Convalescent plasma is used to treat critically ill COVID-19 patients as part of a clinical trial.
On Friday, Isac Gaitan — a firefighter and paramedic with North Collier Fire Control and Rescue District — made his donation at the NCH Community Blood Center.
Gaitan tested positive for COVID-19 early last month and says he doesn't know where he contracted the virus.
"I had a slight cough, and then once I couldn't smell, or taste is when I decided to go get tested," said Gaitan.
Now, fully recovered, he wants to help others also beat the virus.
"It was like a common cold for me; if I would have been worse, I would have wanted someone to donate to help me," said Gaitan.
But Gaitan says his donation is also to help inspire others to get tested for antibodies and donate convalescent plasma.
"Our department is very tight with the community around us," said Gaitan. "This is also one of those times where we have our community's back, and we're here for them."
To show support for Gaitan and the community, several chiefs from the department also donated blood on Friday.
"We're in a profession that works in groups and teams, he comes and donates plasma, we're going to donate blood," said Jorge Aguilera, Asst. Chief of EMS & Training with North Collier Fire Control and Rescue District.
Assistant Chief Aguilera says the department has started to do its own testing for COVID-19 and antibodies.
"On an every three-week bases, we are testing our personal," said Asst. Chief Aguilera. "It is a very unique commitment; we have 241 personnel."
Assistant Chief Aguilera says they started their first round of testing just over a week ago, and are waiting for the results.
"If they show the antibodies, we're going to encourage them to come and do their plasma donations," said Asst. Chief Aguilera.
Health officials say the best time to donate plasma is 28 days after showing no symptoms.