Richard tried not to cry when he met his donor. What led to that emotional moment started 15 months ago.
With the dramatic rise of COVID-19 cases, the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center brought together whatever was necessary to launch an all-new convalescent plasma program.
Day in and day out, Richard and his team collected convalescent plasma from donors who recovered from COVID-19 that were there to help and give as much as possible.
“I threw myself into my work,” said Richard. “The fact that I was needed and we were doing important work kept me going.”
But a positive COVID-19 test ended that.
What started as a tickle in his throat developed into pneumonia.
“For a lot of us, we think it’s not going to happen to us,” said Richard. “I tried to sleep it off, thinking it would be a short recovery at home.”
He ended up in the hospital for seven isolating days.
Too far along in his illness to receive remdesivir, he was put on oxygen and on a waiting list for convalescent plasma. The vaccine had not come out yet.
Having done thousands of blood, platelet and plasma collections, he was now on the receiving end of a transfusion.
“I was so grateful that the plasma was available because that was the only treatment available to me,” said Richard. “By the next day, I could tell something was happening.”
After a month of recovery, Richard was back at work.
He still experiences shortness of breath, a long-term impact of COVID-19, which prevented him from donating back to others the convalescent plasma treatment that helped his recovery. He is grateful that he was able to meet and thank his plasma donor who also happened to be a regular blood donor.
“When I found it who it was, I had actually interacted with him on many occasions,” said Richard. “I’m very grateful that there are selfless people. From the bottom of my heart, I thank each and every one who played a part in convalescent plasma.”
Richard’s story symbolizes the countless lives impacted by convalescent plasma donors.
South Texas Blood & Tissue Center was among the first blood centers in the nation to launch a program to collect convalescent plasma. Since the program’s launch last April, about 900 donors participated, resulting in 25,000 doses of convalescent plasma. Units were given to patients across South Texas and the nation and sent to the national stockpile, with a supply still kept at the blood center to provide to hospitals as one of a growing number of therapies available for use with patients as the pandemic continues.
Because dedicated donors helped build an adequate supply of convalescent plasma, and new therapies are being developed, the blood center is not recruiting convalescent plasma donors at this time.
The center is now focused on the shortage of blood over the summer, as multiple factors put the blood supply at risk.
Visit SouthTexasBlood.org or call 210-731-5590 to schedule an appointment or host a blood drive.