This is a first person account by Pankaj Aundhiya (Additional Collector & Director DRDA, Ahmedabad) who donated plasma a month after he recovered from COVID-19.
It was June 1, and just like every other day, I was on additional duty as a nodal officer in Ahmedabad’s civil hospital. While gathering information about that day’s COVID-19 situation, I felt feverish and developed breathing problems.
Being a frontline worker, I was mentally prepared to be infected and so, the next day I lined up for my tests. Two days later, I was found positive and was immediately admitted to a hospital along with my wife who was infected because of me.
I was kept under observation for 16 days. In between, I developed severe breathing issues and was kept on oxygen for 12 days. I was also injected with Tocilizumab, an immunosuppressant which, when administered, has reduced the risk of invasive mechanical ventilation or death in patients with severe COVID-19.
My health improved over the next few days and I was declared Coronavirus-free on June 16 was kept under home quarantine for 21 days.
The recovery stage was very crucial as my immunity was still weak and my body was manufacturing antibodies to fight coronavirus.
Being in isolation for so many days gave me a chance to realise the importance of Convalescent Plasma Therapy or CPT in the absence of a vaccine. I also learnt about how only a few recovered patients in India are coming forward to donate plasma because of the stigma or fear.
In such precarious times, my duty on the frontline is beyond a nodal officer. The moral and social responsibility of saving someone’s life as a recovered COVID-19 patient is the need of the hour. That said, I too had fears and apprehensions of donating plasma but the will to help someone triumphed.
On August 11, I was in Rajkot for a professional commitment and I got to know that a critical patient was in need of plasma, and was called to the Life Blood Centre, a blood bank.
The doctors patiently explained the entire process of plasma donation and therapy. They told me how plasma will be extracted from my blood and transfused into the patient’s body. They assured me that my body will start manufacturing plasma proteins within 72 hours. And if I change my mind or feel weak during the process, I can stop it.
Once I was fully convinced about the process, I signed a donor registration and consent form.
Next, the doctors assessed the status of my serum protein and CBC. I underwent several tests for the hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus, HIV, malaria, and syphilis. I also had to take an antibody screening test as per the Indian Council Medical Research (ICMR) kit method.
After my results were found to be satisfactory, the transfusion process began that lasted for about 45 minutes.
Throughout the process, one doctor dressed in a PPE kit was inside the room to observe my condition. At no point, did I feel weak or experience any issues. +
Unlike blood donation, only plasma was extracted and the other components of blood including red blood cells were kept intact in the body. This was an automated process, where I was connected to the apheresis machine. The blood centre used a disposable use apheresis kit and one needle.
As per my weight, I donated 300 ml and saved a life.
Overall the plasma donation process was completely pain-free and safe. I hardly even noticed that something was being extracted out of my body.
Watch: Reduce The Average Pain Of India With Plasma Donation
A Doctor’s Appeal For Plasma Donation
The Better India spoke to Dr Nishith Vachhani of Life Blood Centre to confirm how safe and hassle-free plasma donation is.
“A patient who has recovered from COVID-19, can donate plasma after 30 days of recovery. The recovered patient is the only one who can manufacture antibodies required to fight the deadly virus. Before donating plasma, it is mandatory for every laboratory to counsel the donor and explain the procedure in detail. As per ICMR guidelines, a donor can donate up to 500 ml of plasma more than once with a gap of 15 days. 400 ml of blood can save two lives. The process can last up to four hours (from tests to transfusion) and if the patient experiences discomfort we can detach the machine immediately.”
Pankaj and Dr Vachhani strongly feel that people who have successfully recovered from COVID-19, should come forward to donate plasma. Besides saving lives, this will also help to end the stigma around plasma donation.
Please note: Not every person who has recovered is allowed to donate plasma. Consult a doctor about your improved condition and only then proceed to the blood bank. Additionally, if you are still scared of being infected again, it is best that you speak to your doctor to eliminate the risks.
Edited by Gayatri Mishra