By Rick Singer, guest blogger and COVID-19 convalescent plasma donor
I know we’re all feeling it. I know we’re all cooped up, messed up and uptight.
But I am also painfully aware that, as worn out as we all are during the biggest human crisis of our lifetimes, there are very real strides being taken, in often quiet but countless ways, for the health and wellbeing of everyone we love.
I was able to partake in a small (though still rare) way today. And I think if we all can start finding ways to contribute toward something positive, odds improve exponentially that we start to shake off the mental wear ‘n tear … and start putting more of ourselves, our lives back in the “feeling good” column.
With a major assist from one of the greatest health science institutions in the world, I was just such a participant today. And they may have acted appreciative and like I was doing them a big favor, but I wouldn’t have even been there if it weren’t for the brilliant minds and endless labors from so many incredible doctors, nurses, scientists and medical technicians.
A few weeks ago, I started hearing about programs at Stanford Blood Center (SBC), here in Palo Alto, where COVID-19 “survivor” plasma was being collected, rare as it was in this country still, to help directly with transfusions for very sick COVID-19 patients, and for the study of potential antibody solutions.
When I started feeling much better and recovering from COVID-19, I called my doctors and asked if my hospital had begun such a program yet, and was told no … but would I kindly continue researching and maybe work with SBC? So I did. But just as the tasks for consents and approvals and questionnaires and test proofs (online, mind you) were just starting to feel SO overwhelming on top of all the other business and personal day-to-day matters I needed to wade through, I received another call.
This time, about a week after my initial call, it was another doctor from my hospital, a higher-up in their Pathology Department, who was now heading such a program. She called and started pitching ME! How, if I had indeed survived COVID-19, how important my plasma might be now, how I could possibly save numerous lives with it and aid in research! You’re pitching me now!? Hell yeah, I’m in! What do we do!?
Well, coincidentally, my hospital had just started partnering with SBC to get the needed convalescent plasma for its patients. So now I had a ride right to the penthouse! I was hammered with a couple dozen verbal questions immediately, from two doctors from each institution; then I was set up with a new COVID-19 test to confirm I was indeed negative; and then they set me up on SBC’s “Convalescent Blood Task Force” portal… so I could answer five more pages of questions and further understand what criteria I had to meet to give up some of this desperately needed plasma.
Well, I took the retest last week … and came up negative for COVID-19! Big news for ALL of us really, as it scientifically shows we can contract and then eventually SUBTRACT this virus.
And today at 11:30 a.m., I sat in a donation chair, hooked up to a very fancy piece of medical machinery that draws my blood out, sorts what it needs of my plasma and then pumps back into my body my red blood cells and platelets! Blinding me with SCIENCE! The machine is called apheresis; it’s a centrifuge process.
Bethany, the humorous, jovial, brilliant Scottish/Irish technician, stayed with me the whole time, and we laughed and told COVID-19 jokes as my body gave up the 825ml of plasma today that she said could help up to four people. And this kind of “survivor” plasma is still so rare, this clinic is only presently operating three days a week, and I was only one of seven people they’d draw from all day. Oof.
First, my plasma goes to a lab, and if my antibodies show really good signs? They “beg” me again to come back next week and give it up again for their plasma program.
And I will, if that’s the case.
It’s just… I know it has been such a hard few weeks for everyone. We’re on edge, we’re still in unknown territories and we just want to have our lives back.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that, as life-affirming as the Tiger King has been for many, and Animal Crossing for others; and as tired as we are of staring at the same four walls and the same unkempt hairstyles; some scientist, some doctor, some nurse, some student and some technician is tirelessly working, this very second, on solutions that will help all of us!
Keep that in mind when you lay that worried head on your pillow tonight. You are not alone… and you are loved.
To hear a recording of Rick’s interview on 107.7 The Bone, visit their article here.
For more on our COVID-19 convalescent plasma program, visit our website here.