PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A coronavirus survivor who was among the first from our region to test positive is now trying to help others by donating his blood.

For Jim Somerville, this has been quite an experience.

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He’s gone from testing positive for coronavirus to a recovered convalescent plasma donor.

Somerville and his wife, Peg, could never have predicted their vacation aboard the Grand Princess in late February would turn into a nightmare.

Just three days in, Jim fell ill. Family members who visited when the ship docked in Hawaii also got sick.

“The ship is a Petri dish. … I think 700 people ending up getting the disease,” said Jim.

The ship was quarantined 12 miles off the coast for several days.

Once docked, everyone was sent to Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Georgia for quarantining.

“I felt like we had been like lepers, frankly,” Jim said.

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

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Two weeks later, the families were allowed to return to Pennsylvania to self-isolate at home.

Now Jim is healthy and donating his plasma and antibodies to help others.

On Friday, Jim walked in the doors of Vitalant Blood Bank in Green Tree to donate.

People who’ve recovered from coronavirus can have antibodies in their blood that help others.

“This is a very special program to allow people who had been ill to come back in and donate to those who are still recovering,” said Dr. Joseph Kiss, medical director of Vitalant Blood Bank.

Jim is among the first Pittsburgh-area donors. The experimental program began this week, and already doctors at UPMC have used it for other patients.

“We’ve treated our first three patients who were critically ill with COVID infection,” said Dr. John McDyer, a pulmonary critical care doctor and director of the UPMC Lung Transplant Research Program.

Sommerville says, “To find out I have antibodies that can actually help people, it’s remarkably relieving.”

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Apply to be a convalescent plasma donor at C2p3@upmc.edu or click here.