DAYTON, Ohio - Rosemary Saunders worried as she grew older about her adult son Ed with Down syndrome. Who would look out for him when she was no longer around? Then COVID-19 came and turned the world upside down.
The coronavirus has been capricious in the way it divides families. It took Ed's life on April 3 but spared Rosemary and her sister Margaret. Eight weeks later, on May 28 the two sisters traveled from their homes in Pleasant Hill to donate COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma (CCP) side-by-side at the Dayton Community Blood Center.
Since early April, CBC has been collecting the antibody-rich plasma from COVID-19 survivors to help patients critically ill with the virus at local hospitals and outside the region.
"We do what we can do," said Rosemary as she turned to Margaret, "to make a good situation out of a bad situation."
Rosemary's son Ed Kauffman was 50 years old and diabetic, "but a pretty healthy and a happy boy," she said. He loved bowling, playing in the Riverside Bell Choir, and serving on the Champaign Residential Services, Inc. board.
"Ed and I talked about how one of us is going to probably have to live without the other," she said. "I tried to prepare him, so he'd know how to live without me. All that talking to him, now I had to learn to live without him. It's part of life. We lose people."
It was in late March that Ed began to show symptoms. "He had a great team and was doing pretty good for the first five days," said Rosemary. "It was up and down, and we knew it was out there, and we wanted to be careful.
"It took a bad turn. By the time we got him to the ER they had to sedate him and put him on the ventilator right away." He was transferred from Upper Valley Medical Center to Miami Valley Hospital, then placed in isolation.
"I never got to see him," said Rosemary. "The nurses tried to help me talk to him, comfort him, to hear my voice, but that was the most that we could do."
Rosemary knew she was exposed to COVID-19, but her symptoms were mild. "I self-isolated for two weeks and didn't have a test until April 17." A day and a half later she learned she was positive.
Meanwhile, Rosemary's sister Margaret Brown was working at SpringMeade Healthcare Center, a nursing care facility in Tipp City. "We knew what we were getting into," she said. "I had a fever, dizziness, body aches. I stayed home and got tested on March 26."
She got the results on April 5, two days after her nephew's death. "I was positive. I was in isolation for two weeks."
She learned that fear of COVID-19 outlives the infection. "People don't want to be around you," she said.
She read about participating in the CCP program on the CBC website. She printed out the doctor's form and called her sister. Soon they were scheduling their plasma donations at CBC.
"They said we'll get you guys down here together so you can drive together," said Margaret. "I had never donated blood." Margaret finished her donation before Rosemary, then sat with her in the Donor Café.
"We wanted something good to come out of this for someone," said Margaret. "Something positive."
CBC COVID-19 CONVALESCENT PLASMA PROGRAM
To be eligible to give CCP donors must have a diagnosis of COVID-19 through RNA testing. Potential donors can review the CCP eligibility criteria and doctors can complete and submit the form to qualify donors at www.GivingBlood.org.
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