Day 76 of the Covid Chronicles.
Last 15 April 2020, I did something I never thought I would do. I put out my cellphone number all over the internet and social media as I desperately looked for a convalescent plasma donor. The requirements were tough:
- Same blood type as my sister
- Under 60 years old
- Had Covid 19 and survived it
- Tested positive for Covid 19
- Tested negative for Covid 19 twice
- No symptoms observed for at least (2) weeks
- Tested with high antibody titers
- Generous soul
At the height of the enhanced community quarantine, this rare individual would have to return to a medical facility, stay approximately one hour for further testing and then donate his plasma for another hour. He or she would have to convince anxious family members that he will re-enter a high-risk zone to save a life.
The humbling and desperate request reached several news agencies before it reached three (3) donors. Along the way, my phone was bombarded with calls and messages for about 72 hours. I had to answer every call and every message. I also had to call all the leads. In the end, the three (3) donors found us and along the way my responders saved me.
There were curious callers.
Mr. A didn’t know his blood type. Ms. B called for her brother. Mrs. C said she knew that Mr. D was the same blood type. Mr. E wanted to donate but he was over 65 years old. Mr. F, and Ms. G insisted that since they are blood Type O, and universal donors who can donate to all blood types. Mrs H insisted that I didn’t need a plasma donation but I needed to give HHH health supplement.
The first hard question eliminated most candidate donors — “When did you first test covid positive?”. It seemed many had covid but decided to just stay home and not test at all. Some only read the first part of my post (blood type A+ and under 60) and the last part of my post (where my phone number was) only. Some needed an explanation why a plasma donor needed to have the exact same blood type. (Type Os take gentle refusal well) While their generosity and compassion moved me, the time it took to answer the calls meant there was a potential donor I was not talking to.
There were the sympathetic callers.
They were my sister’s school friends. They were her husband’s buddies. Unfortunately, many of them were all over 60 years old and would not be allowed to go out of their homes during the quarantine. They longer than most because one had to listen for a long time. As seniors, they were very emotional about the Covid outbreak. I had to listen to the fear, anxiety, and concern. Sometimes, we needed to pray together before they eventually told me any useful information. I am still grateful to them. Since the sympathetic callers felt helpless when they knew the magnitude of my problem, they nagged the head of the hematology department of the hospital that pioneered the use of convalescent plasma therapy. I lovingly call them the “Tita Brigade”. Dr. L ended up calling me after finding a reluctant donor. I was about to call him because I received 6 messages to call him. He reached me first and he said he cannot put his phone down because the Tita Brigade kept giving my number and asked for an immediate update. It never occurred to me that the celebrated Dr. L who lorded over his medical department could not resist the Tita Brigade.
Then there were the serious callers.
Ms. I had survived Covid 19. She still had lingering symptoms but when she found out about my sister, she called and offered. Dr. J handled the screening and said it was best Ms. I donate when she was fully recovered. Mr. M offered as well, but he still had a slight fever.
Then the quiet breakthrough. Two (2) called my niece, Mr. and Mrs. N. They were both recovered and both offered. They only requested a ride to go to the hospital for the donation because there was no public transportation available.
After everyone called, Ms. O called for her brother. She asked about my sister and offered to pray for her. Eventually, she then told me that her brother will go to see Dr. L tomoro so he can help my sister. It seemed our conversation evaporated his reluctance.
I was exhausted both physically, emotionally and spiritually while my sister battled Covid 19, most of it at the intensive care unit and intubated. She had gone through a cytokine storm and could not receive the first plasma donation intended for her. But the next day, these three (3) donors went to the hospital. Mr and Mrs. came in the morning came for testing. The other arrived in the afternoon. Though my sister only needed one donor, the three (3) came to give to her. Because of this call, two (2) other covid patients would receive plasma for humanitarian reasons. My sister received the plasma therapy on the evening of 16 April 2020. They came to save her and they did. She tested Covid-negative a week later. Unknowingly, they saved me too.
I write this story over a month after because it inspires me to remember these donors. Their bravery and generosity are virtues I would like to have now as quarantine ends and my sister battles the scars that Covid planted in her lungs. The doctors call it fibrosis. Perhaps, the recovery tale is for another day. This story is for heroic convalescent plasma donors. Thank you.