This summer, Stanford Blood Center (SBC) and LifeServe Blood Center brought together two very special heroes. Shanti Minkstein, a photographer from San Francisco, California, and Lance Becker, a banker from Des Moines, Iowa, joined a Zoom call to discuss their experiences as COVID-19 survivors. They had never met before, but they share a bond that will last a lifetime: Shanti donated COVID-19 convalescent plasma (CCP) that may have saved Lance’s life.
Both Shanti and Lance battled COVID-19, but their road to recovery took very different paths. After returning from a trip to Mexico, Shanti began experiencing mild symptoms and soon after tested positive for the virus. She recovered quickly and wanted to give back. Her friend’s husband was critically ill, so Shanti was inspired to donate CCP at SBC. In early April, she became just the second recovered patient to make this special donation at SBC. One unit went to an anonymous patient halfway across the country. She even wondered if it was going to a certain celebrity!
“I thought you might have been Tom Hanks,” joked Shanti when the two met. “They wouldn’t give me a name and I thought it might be a movie star. But I’m not disappointed!”
Lance’s journey was right out of a horror movie. After returning from a business trip, he began to experience shortness of breath, was hospitalized on April 1 and spent the next 16 days on a ventilator. He was in bad shape; but on April 10, he received a CCP transfusion. Within a few days of receiving the CCP and continued aggressive medical support from his health care team, his lungs began to clear. He was back home by end of month.
“The fact that the symptoms range from a couple days of discomfort to full blown hospitalization… It’s a gamble if you don’t take it seriously,” said Lance. “You’re gambling with your life.”
Now they’re urging other donors who have had COVID-19 to pay it forward to help save lives during the global pandemic.
“I’d absolutely do it again. I feel that I have a purpose in being sick and to save a life, save another human,” said Shanti.
And Lance is doing his part, too. He recently overcame his fear of donating and made his first CCP donation at LifeServe Blood Center in his hometown, hoping it will help another COVID-19 patient.
“I’ve always been iffy about needles. I’ve tried to give blood before but have been unable to do so because I get so tense. But after being in the hospital and being poked and prodded, I’ve kind of dulled that fear,” said Lance. “When I was able to find out that this [CCP] is what kind of turned the tables for me and helped me out, it was a matter of, ‘Okay, well, now how can I do that for someone else?’”
It took a global pandemic to bring these strangers together, but they’re hoping their stories will inspire other COVID-19 survivors to step up and help save the lives of other hospitalized patients.
“The plasma most likely saved my life,” Becker continued, “so if you’re able to donate and you have the antibodies, I can’t think of an excuse not to.”
Shanti added, “If you can survive this virus, it should be treated as a badge of honor and a [way] to help others out there. Don’t sit on it. If you’re sick, ride it through, do what you can to survive, and as soon as you’re able to… give back.”
You can view Shanti and Lance’s recorded conversation in its entirety at stanfordbloodcenter.org/SBCtv.
To find out how you can donate COVID-19 convalescent plasma and learn more about the recent emergency use authorization for CCP, please visit stanfordbloodcenter.org/covid19plasma.