When Paul Nielsen was hospitalized at UCHealth Memorial Hospital North in Colorado Springs, Colorado with COVID-19 in early May, he knew that the convalescent plasma used in his treatment came in two bags. On Wednesday, he got to meet the two people who donated those two units.
Nielsen, of Colorado Springs, says doctors were considering putting him on a ventilator when they offered him a convalescent plasma treatment. Paul believes that antibody treatment made a big difference.
“I’m really convinced that had my family not brought me to the E.R. and I didn’t have that plasma, that’s the night that I probably would not have survived,” Nielsen said. “The plasma was the key ingredient. I’m not a doctor, I don’t know for certain, but to me that’s what I credit as saving my life was the plasma.”
Nielsen worked with Vitalant to arrange a donor/patient introduction to thank those involved in the donor-to-patient journey. Dr. Amos Bailey, a palliative care physician at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital and faculty member at the CU School of Medicine, got to meet Nielsen in person. Bailey had COVID-19 early in March.
“I spent a lot of time working in the intensive care units, working with the doctors and families trying to make difficult decisions for their loved ones who were dying from COVID, Bailey said. “It was very scary because I had been sick with COVID myself.”
That’s why he jumped at the chance to donate with Vitalant in hopes of helping others battling COVID-19.
Nielsen’s other donor, Tracee Metcalfe, a hospitalist in Vail, was able to meet Nielsen via Zoom. She, too, contracted and recovered from COVID early in the pandemic.
“Luckily, I had a mild illness and I was able to go back to work pretty quickly and I felt grateful for that because I really wanted to be part of helping people,” Metcalfe said. “I felt happy I could come back to work and take care of patients, and when the opportunity to give plasma arose I was delighted to be able to do that.”
Nielsen, too, started donating following his recovery from COVID-19 in hopes of paying it forward.
“I remember telling the doctor, as soon as I’m well I want to donate plasma. I’ve been able to donate plasma myself since then and the more people I have gotten to know from Vitalant, the more I think this is a great organization, and it’s a wonderful thing to do. I regret not having donated blood in the past before I received it and learned how important it is.”
How you can help
Vitalant continues to test all blood/platelet/plasma donations for COVID-19 antibodies and informs donors of their results. If positive, Vitalant can produce convalescent plasma from the donation to treat patients currently battling the disease to give them an extra boost to fight their illness. Other blood components from the donation can help patients undergoing surgery, receiving treatment for cancer or requiring regular transfusions for a chronic condition. People who have received a COVID-19 vaccine are eligible to give blood, platelets or plasma if they meet all general blood donation eligibility criteria. There is a need for all blood types, and a critical need for Type O donations.