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February 6, 2021

In December, after having taught and finished all of his fall semester on-campus classes at Mayville State University, Dr. Michael Kjelland began to experience a stuffy nose, and as he says, “my coffee tasted and smelled a little off.”

Kjelland, who is an assistant professor of biology at Mayville State, said that some of his students were out ill with COVID-19 and others were forced to study online as they were put in isolation for being close contacts. Out of caution, he decided to get tested.

“I received a positive COVID-19 test result, which made even more sense at the time, as I had gone to bed with a mild headache that night before and woke up with one the next day,” said Dr. Kjelland. “Knowing that my immune system would be making large amounts of antibodies and hearing about the use of convalescent blood plasma to treat COVID-19, I decided to look into the possibility of donating mine.”

He learned that Fargo has a place for such blood donations at a company called Vitalant (teaming up with Essentia Health), and the Red Cross is also taking donations. After meeting the required waiting period and the rest of the requirements, Dr. Kjelland donated as much as they would allow (1000 mLs).

If you can successfully fend off COVID-19, the silver lining is that you can then use the infection against itself by giving your antibody-rich blood plasma, called convalescent blood plasma. The blood plasma is put into someone else to help them fight off the infection better. A Vitalant staff member shared that a volume of one liter of convalescent plasma could potentially help five COVID-19 patients.

“Essentially, being infected by COVID-19 turned into an opportunity for me to help others who are sick with COVID-19,” said Kjelland. “The poignant part of this story is that I had just finished teaching my Anatomy & Physiology students the chapter on blood and another chapter on the lymphatic system and immunity.” 

Photo caption: Dr. Michael Kjelland, assistant professor of biology at Mayville State University is shown donating his blood plasma for convalescent plasma therapy. You can learn more about convalescent blood plasma therapy at https://www.vitalant.org/covidfree.