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I Lost 2 Family Members To COVID: Things To Know About Getting Convalescent Plasma

Posted: December 4, 2020

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The battle with COVID is treacherous, exhausting, and brutal. But people are good, and help. Resources for COVID, and information to fight this battle. 

There are times when you wish you had the power to reset the wheel of time to a previous stable state; times when you question why me? During past eight months, several families have been through tumultuous times when they have had thoughts like these.

Since March, the COVID landscape has had its crests and troughs such that most of us are fatigued counting numbers, but definitely the current wave appears to have come back full with vengeance.

COVID is here and its threat is real. And it would be here, until there is some viable solution. Till then, life needs to remain masked and muted full of precautions.

Recently, I had a close encounter as a witness to its impact leading to loss and pain in the extended family. And all it took was just a month!

Rendezvous with the worst nightmare

Last month, when my uncle was hospitalized due to issues in breathing, we did not expect what was coming.

He was a heart patient and had had a previous episode of pneumonic oedema, and this time also, we thought this to be the case. However, soon we realised we were wrong.

Not just that, within the next two days, my aunt also had to be hospitalized, with high fever. From there, it just took two more days for the rest of the family (except one adult) to be diagnosed as COVID positive.

As a family, it was like our rendezvous with one of the worst nightmares; with both these senior citizens fighting the deadly virus at two different hospitals in the capital city, and the rest of the family also under COVID quarantine.

Statistics say that age and co-morbidities are a perfect recipe for a COVID infection to morph into a complications stage.

Arranging for convalescent plasma not a straightforward task

Within two days of his admission to the COVID ward, we were asked to arrange for a plasma donor for my uncle. Due to his existing medical conditions, he couldn’t be administered the medicines usually given to COVID patients.

We knew we were faced with an uphill task, but what happened next was more than like an exercise of jumping through several hoops. Something which I couldn’t even now imagine can be accomplished without the collective effort of several kind hearted souls.

A shout out on social media brought so many friends, and even strangers coming together for the cause through their active shares and lots of prayers. It was overwhelming to see the response, yet there were many misconceptions and assumptions that had to be cleared.

Busting some assumptions and myths about convalescent plasma

Sharing some important ones here such that it saves time and energy for anyone in this phase –

AssumptionYou need to arrange same group plasma as the patient’s blood group.
RealityWhile you will be asked for a certain number units of blood plasma, (usually 1) one can arrange for any blood group, and get the required blood group plasma in lieu of it.

AssumptionThe donor needs to have a COVID negative report before he/she can donate.
RealityWhile this is preferred, if you don’t have a report ready, you can be tested at the time of donation.

AssumptionAnyone who has recovered from COVID is eligible to donate.
RealityNo. People with chronic conditions like High BP, diabetes as well as women who have conceived even once won’t fit the bill. And only if one is a recovered COVID patient with time gap of 15 to 80 days, they can be considered to donate.

AssumptionIf one has recovered from COVID within a stipulated time, you can be sure of donation.
RealityNo. Even if you pass all the conditions with respect to duration of recovery, unless you have required number of antibodies, (determined through a test done before your plasma is accepted) you would not be able to donate.

Due to all these essential checks and limitations, usually one needs to be prepared with multiple donors lined up to avoid delays in case of rejections. In our case, there were five rejections before one of the donors could donate.

Some legit resources for COVID, for convalescent plasma

We also realised how multiple fake forwards and irrelevant information was circulating on the whatsapp. Here are a few valid and important sites with phone numbers which we used –

Plasma Donor (Pan India)at this link.

ILBS – Institute of Liver & Biliary Sciences -DELHI: WhatsApp – +91-8448884344 / At this link.

Project Step One – DELHI NCR: Helpline # 1031 or 1800111747 / Register at this link.

KAB Welfare Foundation – DELHI NCR: WhatsApp/Call +91-9810063261 / Register at this link. 

Team SOS (Pan India): WhatsApp/Call +91-7774008190 / Register at this link.

Dhoondh (Pan India):  Register at this link.

Friends2Support (Pan India): Register at this link.

GiveRed_India (Pan India): Register at this link.

PRANIC Healing: Pan India here. Rajasthan Foundation +91-9587603603. Delhi Foundation +91-9560900900.

As a protocol, after getting the prescription which clearly states need for convalescent plasma, a registration on the above sites followed with a clear ask on any blood group and without mention of recovery period would be helpful in connecting with donors without waste of time.

COVID warriors going out of their way

The challenging times also bring with them people who show you the light.  I got connected with one such person who has been helping hundreds of COVID patients everyday with information, making connects and above all providing an empathetic listening ear to pull families out through all these challenges.

Shares Vibha, who takes care of Delhi NCR Volunteer for Corona and is on a mission of going out of her way every time she connects with someone in these difficult times, “We started a twitter handle for Delhi NCR COVID crisis related support at the onset of the lockdown. Since then, we have supported people across problems in all the phases of lockdown. Today, it is extended across India, especially in cities like Kolkata, Hyderabad and Patna. It’s overwhelming merely to connect people with govt and non govt entities for issue resolution. If we had a process where the community was more aware of stakeholders, burden on each would end. I thank everyone who is helping the best possible way to make a difference in each case in these difficult times.”

COVID = ISOLATION – An arduous journey

The initial good news for both my relatives was a positive response to the convalescent plasma. However, my uncle succumbed to the virus within a couple of days of the plasma transfusion, post being on the ventilator support for almost a day.

The battle with COVID is treacherous, attributed to the highly contagious nature, and the way it usually impacts everyone in the family. Add to it is another complex dimension which leaves one helpless – coping with the isolation, a brutal part of the recovery process.

My aunt fought a long battle with days of undulating oxygen levels, going back and forth on oxygen support and BIPAP; fighting back, getting better, recovering till only 10% pneumonic patch was left, then suddenly sinking into anxiety and losing it to COVID on Diwali day.

An individual responsibility and a collective effort

As I pen this, there has been another life lost in my neighbourhood today. It is being said that we are in a phase where the virus is everywhere. It’s such a paradox; when we need to be the most careful, we are fatigued; we are exhausted of months of living under the fear of the unknown. And thus, a lackadaisical attitude and casualness is visible everywhere.

Complete lockdown was never an answer. We are seeing the ripple effect with economy in shambles. While we may keep accusing government and policy makers, the fact is that it has to be a collective effort and an individual responsibility. COVID is a war which can be won only when we are in this together.

Image source: Tumisu on pixabay

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