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THE LONG JOURNEY FOR COVID-19 PLASMA DONOR JENNIFER MEYER

June 16, 2020

DAYTON, Ohio - Jennifer Meyer thought an exciting adventure abroad would be awaiting her when she arrived in Spain.  Instead it was the horror of COVID-19.

Jennifer is a recently retired elementary school teacher who lives in Centerville. She's also a COVID-19 survivor who on June 3 made her third donation of COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma (CCP) at the Dayton Community Blood Center for use as a treatment for patients critically ill with the coronavirus.

It was three months earlier, on March 3 when she rendezvoused with three friends for a three-week Spanish vacation.   One member of the group is originally from Spain and would serve as a personal guide.

Just a few days into the trip she got news from home that her 91-year-old mother had fallen and broken her hip. As she agonized about returning home, the whole vacation unraveled. COVID-19 cases spiked in Spain, and an advisory came from the U.S. State Department, warning Americans to return home immediately or risk being stuck abroad for an indefinite period.

"It was crazy there," said Jennifer. "All of a sudden, everything shut down and people packed into the airport."

"It was nuts," she said. "People were walking around, scared faces, children crying - nobody knew if we were going to get home.  We packed up and went to the airport, but we couldn't get out."

They spent the night at a nearby hotel and felt lucky to get a flight the next day. "It was a crazy couple of days," she said. "The hotel we stayed in, the next day they turned it into a hospital."

COVID-19 cases were surging in the U.S. and soon they discovered symptoms of infection. "All four of us had fevers," she said. "It lasted four days. My chest was a little tight, that's about it." She tested positive for COVID-19.  It was a mild case, but she could not be near her mother.

"She was without me for two months," Jennifer said. "I couldn't get in her building, they're very strict. They let caregivers come in, but you have to have a negative test.  It's horrible. She fell again and is not doing well."

After two more COVID-19 tests, Jennifer finally tested negative. The experience made her painfully aware of how many elderly people were suffering from loneliness as they remained isolated from loved ones.  For many, the mental strain was as dangerous as the disease.

"She's lost a lot of friends," said Jennifer, "because they were so depressed."

It was a source of inspiration to learn she could help COVID-19 patients by donating her antibody-rich plasma at CBC.

"It sounds corny, but I just feel it's turning something good out of something bad," she said. "I wanted to help someone that needed this."

She's on a schedule now to donate CCP every two weeks. Being able to see her mother again gives her hope for her mother's healing.  Getting alerts about how her plasma was used gives her hope for others.

"I get voice messages," she said, holding up the email transcription on her smartphone. "This is Community Blood Center," it reads, thanking her for her donation "sent to save a life at Kettering Medical Center."

"I can't tell you how much I appreciate getting that," said Jennifer. "It's very cool. I love doing it and knowing it went to good use."

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.