Former Covid-19 patients donate plasma to offer hope to seriously ill

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Patients who were struck down by Covid-19 and have now recovered have spoken of their willingness to help others as part of a blood plasma trial.

Rebecca Mascarenhas, from Kingston, south-west London, fell ill after caring for her husband while he was suffering with Covid-19.

Her own signs of illness did not come until two days after her husband was admitted to Kingston Hospital on March 11.

“It’s such a small act in the grand scheme of things and the impact it could have on someone’s life… I had to do it, I wanted to help in any way that I could,” the 33-year-old HR worker said.

Rebecca Mascarenhas
Rebecca Mascarenhas takes part in the scheme (Kirsty Hamilton/NHSBT/PA)

“He was admitted to hospital with it and while he was in hospital, that’s when I went down with it when I was at home with my kids trying to look after them.

“Thankfully I had fairly mild symptoms – three days of a temperature, a tightness of chest where I couldn’t take a full breath and a persistent cough.

“My son also got it, he had seven days of a temperature of around 40C.

“My husband was in hospital at the same time and I didn’t know whether he was still OK.

“He was really lucky – he was only in for a week and he was very close to being sent to intensive care, but thankfully pulled through.”

Ms Mascarenhas and her husband both tested positive for Covid-19 and signed up to donate plasma.

Plasma collection
Convalescent plasma is being collected from Tooting Blood Donor Centre (Kirsty Hamilton/NHSBT/PA)

“If there is anything in my blood that can help, I definitely wanted to be involved.”

Adam Drew, 25, from Chessington, fell ill early on in the epidemic, on March 9.

The 25-year-old police officer managed his symptoms at home and did not need to be hospitalised.

“It was like having a strange version of the flu, it started with a temperature and cold sweats and chills for one or two evenings,” he said.

“Then for about five days I had a headache behind the eyes, muscular aching and then general fatigue, to the point if I was laying still or sitting still I was OK, but if I moved I was knackered.

“I had no sore throat or cough but I did have a shortness of breath. If I took a deep breath I had like a pain in the chest which felt like it was bruised from the outside.”

Plasma being donated
The process was described as ‘painless’ (Kirsty Hamilton/NHSBT/PA)

He was contacted by the NHS last week to take part in the blood plasma trial which could potentially help those who are seriously ill with coronavirus.

“It was a no-brainer,” he said.

“The only bit that hurt was the needle going in and the plaster coming off, but the actual process itself was painless.

“I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone.

“It’s really important because this looks like one of the only things at the moment that could work as a treatment.

“There doesn’t seem to be any real alternative currently, so I’m hoping it works.”

Laura Martin, 43, from south London, was also contacted by the NHS last week.

A practice manager at a birth clinic, she told PA: “I had it really early, so there wasn’t the hype so much as there is now, so I wasn’t scared.

Recovered coronavirus patient Laura Martin donating convalescent plasma (Kirsty Hamilton/NHSBT/PA)

Ms Martin suffered fatigue for a few more weeks but said she felt lucky to avoid the worst of the symptoms on her lungs.

She described the process of giving plasma as “fascinating” and said it did not hurt at all.

She said: “Anything really to help. It’s quite intriguing the whole thing, but to help anybody who’s got it really badly. It was a good experience and I’d definitely do it again if I have enough antibodies.”

Ms Martin said that while she had not donated blood or plasma before, the experience had changed her perspective.

“Now I know where (the clinic) is, I will,” she said.

“It was just so easy and you just feel like you’re actually doing something. A part of this whole thing is that you do want to help.

“I think a lot of people feel helpless, I know a lot of my friends do because they’re sitting at home, so at least I can feel like I can contribute to society in a way.”

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