Rotary Club members are no strangers to giving of themselves whether it be financial donations or volunteering their time for numerous local as well as international projects, but one Yadkin County Rotary member is giving something a little different. LeeSa Leonard, as well as her husband Mike, had COVID-19 in early June. Leonard is now donating convalescent plasma via The Red Cross in hopes of helping others who are battling the illness.
“It was such a terrible thing. If it could help save a life — why walk around with this stuff that could help other people and not give it,” Leonard said.
Leonard said she had never before given blood or plasma and was nervous about the process but she knew she wanted to help others suffering from COVID-19.
Leonard and her husband were diagnosed the first week of June and were very ill for at least two weeks. She said after 14 days she was tested again and found to be negative, but said she was still trying to get her strength back. Leonard and her husband did not have to be hospitalized with the illness but she said it was a very uncertain situation and she wondering if at any time they might have to go to the hospital for care.
“What we had been through, I don’t want other people to go through that,” Leonard said. “We have since know so many people who have passed away. If I can give and do anything to help anybody not go through that.”
According to the Red Cross website, plasma in the blood of those who have had COVID-19 may contain COVID-19 antibodies that can attack the virus. The convalescent plasma is being evaluated as a possible treatment for currently ill COVID-19 patients, so donations could help save the lives of patients battling this disease.
Leonard said on her first trip donate plasma she was told she was the only one there giving that “particular type of gift.” She will donate plasma once a week for a total of eight weeks
“Each donation can help up to three patients as long as my antibodies are present,” she said. “As we were in the throes this horrible virus for weeks, I made my ‘deals’ with God that I would do what I could if He chose to spare us. We watched as Dr. Ong from Wake Forest and Dr. Fauci spoke often of the effects of convalescent plasma and it became something I knew I needed to do. It is my hope that I can help lessen someone’s symptoms and possibly actually help save a life. Giving once a week I can potentially help up to 32 people before having to take a six-month break. Much like tracking a package from Amazon, through the American Red Cross app, I can actually track my donation and see when it is delivered to a hospital.
“We don’t know how long antibodies last or if having antibodies actually protect you from reinfection, which is also my reason for giving as well as participating in the Wake Forest study,” Leonard continued. “If I can help them figure out how it works and how to treat this virus, mine and Mike’s suffering will not have been in vain.”
For more information on donating convalescent plasma visit https://www.redcrossblood.org/donate-blood/dlp/plasma-donations-from-recovered-covid-19-patients.html
For more information on Wake Forest Baptist Health’s COVID-19 research visit https://www.wakehealth.edu/Coronavirus/COVID-19-Community-Research-Partnership
Kitsey Burns Harrison may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter and Instagram @RippleReporterK.