Finally. Liberated from their second round of Covid-19 quarantine, Carol and Ed Lundergan of New Paltz were able last week to donate their blood plasma. The couple went to the plasma donation clinic at Vassar Brothers Hospital on May 6 after being cleared to donate.
“The process is fascinating,” said the always-positive Carol, who despite having struggled with the virus for weeks was determined to do something that could help others suffering during the pandemic. “The blood is removed, the plasma is separated out, and the red blood cells and platelets are returned to the body along with the saline and citrate.”
Ed is a SUNY New Paltz professor and artistic director of Kairos: A Consort of Singers. Carol runs a software company for labor unions. The couple has been very informative about their illness, sharing its complexities on Facebook and providing insights to the community on what a Covid 19 diagnosis can entail.
They had the first known cases in New Paltz, testing positive in mid-March. After surviving the illness, they were officially released from quarantine by the county health department on April 2.
Determined to donate
Anxious to be of help to others, the two set up appointments with the plasma clinic. They were told that their second novel coronavirus test, required to be able to donate plasma, had come back positive.
While she and Ed had felt recovered from the illness, Carol admitted to a persistent tiredness.
“I felt fatigue and Carol still had some congestion, but we weren’t nearly as sick as we were the first two weeks,” Ed said. “I think the fatigue may have been from our bodies fighting off the virus.” They were released a second time on April 27 and took another test, which came back negative. They booked an appointment to donate their plasma.
“The entire process took about two hours because after they take your blood they remove the plasma from it and then they pump your blood back in with some saline and citrate,” he said. “Although I realize it’s anecdotal, I’ve been told that the clinical plasma treatment [convalescent serum] can be very effective. My friend’s brother-in-law, who was very ill, had a complete recovery after being treated with donated plasma.”
The Lundergans are still waiting to hear back from the Vassar clinic as to whether their plasma has enough antibodies to be effective in clinical or research trials. If it is, they’ll be able to provide plasma once every two weeks. A nurse told that the amount of plasma they donated, as a couple, could help to save or accelerate the recovery of up to three people still suffering from the virus.
Plasma helps research
“We were provided with so much support and more offers of help from our community than we could have ever needed,” said Ed. “So being able to donate our plasma was a very gratifying experience.” Carol explained that women who have been pregnant in their lifetime can test positive for HLA [Human Leukocyte Antigen] antibodies. “If I have the HLA antibodies, then my plasma can’t be used for anything but research,” she said.
“It could cause some sort of reaction in a recipient,” explained Ed. “So they’re cautious about using plasma with the HLA in it for clinical use. It doesn’t affect normal blood donations, but in this case they test for it.”
According to an article on HLA and plasma transfusion from the UCLA Health website, HLA antibodies are protein cells found in pregnant women that are used to help create their fetus’ immune system. Those cells can remain in the female long after pregnancy.
Carol said she was pleased to be able to help. Plasma donations from those who have successfully come through the illness are in high demand for clinical trials and for research on this new, highly contagious virus that has resulted in a societal shutdown.
Both are thankful to have come through the other side of the virus. They’re both in their sixties. Carol has underlying medical issues, including asthma and Type-2 diabetes, which put her at greater risk.
Both are now back to work — remotely from their home.
What’s the takeaway for them from this coronavirus rollercoaster?
“Honestly, the work that the medical professionals are doing,” responded Ed. “Not just today, but every day. I have such enormous respect for them.”