An El Paso woman who has recovered from COVID-19 donated her blood plasma after being inspired by friends who did the same earlier this year.
Karen Foster was the only member of her family diagnosed with COVID-19 shortly after Father’s Day weekend in June. While the symptoms weren’t extreme — headache and fatigue — it was still enough for her to never want to experience it again.
“I don’t really know how I caught it, it was just one of those things. I wasn’t out in public much, but I still got it,” Foster said. “I woke up with a headache one day, and the next morning I was able to take my dog on a long walk. I was feeling pretty good and worked out with my trainer on Zoom, then I just felt tired. That with the headache made for two symptoms, and on Tuesday I was tired to the extent that I slept all day. But by Wednesday I was feeling better.”
Foster was tested for COVID-19, and within days it was confirmed that she contracted the virus, despite never developing a fever or chest congestion; however, her headaches lasted for several more days.
About a month ago, fully recovered, Foster decided to donate plasma after being inspired by friends Alan and Patty Russell, community leaders and local supporters of Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso. In February, the Russells thought they caught a bad case of the flu, but months later tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies.
Since the beginning of summer, doctors with Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso have urged individuals who have fully recovered from COVID-19 to donate convalescent plasma, which can boost the ability of patients with severe cases to fight the virus. Since convalescent plasma is in short supply, donors are needed and appreciated.
The Russell family spoke with Debabrata Mukherjee, M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at TTUHSC El Paso and Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso, and donated plasma at Vitalant, a blood service provider in El Paso. Similarly, Foster donated her plasma at Vitalant and was pleasantly surprised when the staff told her many El Pasoans have offered their plasma during blood drives.
“If it can help all of us beat this thing sooner rather than later, I believe we absolutely need to do it,” Foster said. “If you’ve gone through COVID-19, it’s a responsibility to give plasma. I think it could be important to all of us.”
Those interested can donate plasma at local Vitalant locations if they meet the following conditions:
- Prior diagnosis of COVID-19, documented by a laboratory test.
- Complete resolution of symptoms for at least 28 days.
- Meet all other current U.S. Food and Drug Administration donor eligibility requirements to donate plasma.
Foster encourages anyone who has survived COVID-19 to talk about their experience and help others. She also has advice for anyone who catches the virus.
“The most important thing is if you think you’re sick, listen to your body,” Foster said. “When I got tired, I went to bed and stayed in bed until I started feeling better. My doctor told me to stay hydrated and that helped. People have a mentality that they need to power through illness, and you really do have to just listen to what your body is telling you.”