Five Canadians Explain What It’s Like To Recover From COVID-19 & Contribute To The Research For A Cure
Convalescent plasma is being explored as a potential treatment for the coronavirus.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect every aspect of daily existence, from gym workouts to office life, the medical and scientific communities are hard at work trying to find a cure.
One of the potential treatments for the coronavirus is convalescent plasma. Canadian Blood Services are at the forefront of figuring out if this liquid is effective against COVID-19.
The nonprofit is involved in Health Canada-approved clinical trials in more than 60 hospitals across the country.
What is convalescent plasma?
Plasma is the protein-rich liquid in the blood that supports the immune system and helps other blood components (red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets) circulate through the body.
When a person is infected with a virus, their body starts making antibodies to fight it.
While many Canadians have been lucky to avoid getting infected by the coronavirus, some of us have had the misfortune of experiencing this terrible illness.
But the following five Canadians have also done their best to contribute to finding treatment by donating convalescent plasma.
Jerry Glubisz holds a distinct title.
The 63-year-old was the first person in Canada to donate his convalescent plasma to Canadian Blood Services for their COVID-19 trials.
He describes his own battle with the illness as “like the seasonal flu, times two.” Jerry experienced a fever, nasty cough, and fatigue during his bout with the virus.
When he recovered, he decided to potentially help find a cure by donating his convalescent plasma to Canadian Blood Services.
“Hopefully, this [his convalescent plasma donation] will go to a good research cause, and somebody will get better. And that makes me feel pretty good,” he said.
For university student Alma Thrift, being diagnosed with COVID-19 was a nerve-wracking experience. With the disease being so new, she was worried that there might not necessarily be a solution if something went wrong.
But this fear of the unknown motivated Alma to donate her convalescent plasma to Canadian Blood Services.
"It's kind of stressful and, like, knowing that there's not a whole of research at all so far because it's so novel. I wanted to do anything that I could to help anybody who was in my situation or worse," she told CTV News.
Once a Canadian Blood Services ambassador in high school, Alma made her first plasma donation on Halloween — definitely a 2020 way to celebrate the holiday.
She's currently waiting for the results of her trial and to see if convalescent plasma may hold the key to ending COVID-19. While Alma says that having the virus is a challenging experience, the upside is that you can then help others.
"The one silver lining, the one nice thing that can come out of having such a challenging experience (COVID-19) is that you can help somebody else that’s going through it," Alma told the Winnipeg Free Press.
Out of nowhere, Stephen Sargeson was suddenly hit by COVID-19, and the disease came with "vigour."
On day one of the disease, he says that he experienced a high fever, nausea, diarrhea, plus sinus and lung pain all at once.
While he felt better on the second day with his fever and nausea disappearing, he says that he was plagued by intense muscle pain for 48 hours after that. Finally, for the next week, he says that he slept for 16 hours per day while recovering.
It took about five to six weeks for him to regain his sense of smell.
One of the most shocking aspects for Steve was that he was always super careful and strictly followed public health guidelines. The Toronto native says that everyone at his job was stunned when he came down with the illness.
After recovering from the virus, Steve felt that participating in convalescent plasma trials with Canadian Blood Services was "the least he could do."
"My first session was on Remembrance Day. Compared to being stuck in a trench for months on end, giving one hour of my day and a bit of blood to potentially save a life is not much of an ask," he said. "The energy in the room was vibrant — you really feel like you are a part of something bigger than yourself, part of a community. It felt very natural."
Richard and Patrick Carl
The old saying goes "like father, like son," and it's probably never been truer than in the case of Richard and Patrick Carl.
Richard and Patrick believe they caught COVID-19 during a family ski trip to Colorado in late February. Richard's wife and his other son also tested positive for the virus.
Richard said that he feels "incredibly lucky" that no one in his family developed severe symptoms. After they recovered, Patrick and Richard decided to donate their convalescent plasma to Canadian Blood Services.
“I was happy to contribute what I could,” said Patrick. “You feel so helpless right now. I’d love to do my part to kind of push the world back to a state of normalcy.”
To participate in convalescent plasma trials, you must be:
- Recently confirmed positive for COVID-19 by a laboratory test;
- Younger than 67 years old; and
- Recently fully recovered and symptom-free from the virus for at least 28 days.
- Having a history of donating blood is not required.
If you meet all of these above requirements, you can register online to become a convalescent plasma donor.
While it's still unknown if this blood liquid can be an effective treatment against COVID-19, at this point during the pandemic, all options should be explored.