COVID-19 infects Auburn reporter’s dad, family urging plasma donations


FILE – In this Feb. 18, 2020, file photo, Dr. Zhou Min, a recovered COVID-19 patient who has passed his 14-day quarantine, donates plasma in the city’s blood center in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province. Plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients contains antibodies that may help reduce the viral load in patients that are fighting the disease. (Chinatopix via AP, File)

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – Three days after testing positive for COVID-19, flashing ambulance lights lit up WRBL’s Elizabeth White’s parent’s home in Auburn, Alabama. Shortly after midnight on Friday morning her 74-father’s health was rapidly declining. He was panting for air as his oxygen levels dropped, and fever spiked to 104.

White’s family called 911. A few hours later, lab and imaging results  at Columbus Piedmont Hospital’s ER revealed the virus was attacking his lungs and body. 

“I followed the ambulance in my vehicle, in an effort not to contract the virus. It’s horrible how this virus’s contagiousness separates you from family when they need you the most,” said White.

Hours before the sun came up, two incredible EMTs rolled White’s father into the ER. White remembers raising her voice, muffled by a mask, reassuring her daddy he was safe and dearly loved. 

“I did a FaceTime with my mom and brother so they could see daddy. In a blink, the doors shut, and he was out of sight. I stood on the pavement and cried. I was scared. I prayed. I felt horrible I couldn’t be with him, but also relief medical experts now had him in their care,” said White.

Friday morning, Elizabeth’s dad was admitted to the hospital as COVID beds begin to fill up at hospitals across Georgia quickly.  The family is thankful to the EMT first responders, both Piedmont Columbus Regional hospital campuses and two kind Columbus police officers for helping their father during the initial transports.

Elizabeth sat in the parking lot 50-feet from the ambulance entrance hoping her daddy would feel her presence.

“My dad has this whistle. A high pitch and loud whistle, we could hear from miles away. It’s his way of calling us home to him. I can feel it before I hear it, and my head still pops up on a swivel looking for my dad. We may not be able to see him right now, but he feels I’m nearby. Forced and necessary physical distance can’t stop my family’s connection,” said White.

White’s family, like most, have been following updates regarding potential COVID-19 treatments. The family prayed convalescent plasma could be used to help their father. Friday, they learned the plasma that looks like liquid gold had been ordered. 

”Relief and hope flooded our hearts. We know incredibly ill patients have benefited from the plasma. We are grateful our dad is slated to get the treatment and will work tirelessly to pay it forward,” said White.

LifeSouth and the Red Cross are partnering with hospitals in our area to collect plasma from blood donors who have recovered from the virus to help critically ill patients. 

Elizabeth and her dad, pre-pandemic

Convalescent plasma is the liquid portion of blood collected from blood donors who have recovered from COVID-19. Recovered patients form antibodies; these antibodies are found in plasma. Convalescent plasma therapy is considered an investigational drug by the FDA and is widely used as a treatment by doctors in many local hospitals to help the severely ill. When transfused, the antibodies can help patients recover.


Have you or someone you know recently recovered from COVID-19?

If so, you could save lives at Columbus Piedmont, East Alabama Medical Center, and other hospitals as a convalescent plasma donor.

LifeSouth and the Red Cross are both donation centers.

Why is donating convalescent plasma important?

•There are no FDA approved treatments currently available for severe cases of COVID-19

•Convalescent plasma has shown positive results in previous disease outbreaks, such as H1N1, influenza, and Ebola

•While investigational, convalescent plasma shows promise as an effective treatment in early available data

In coordination with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Red Cross is seeking people who are fully recovered from the new coronavirus to sign up to donate plasma to help current COVID-19 patients.

Meanwhile, White remains in stable condition at the hospital after the virus infected their home.

“We tried to be so careful. He still got it. I hope people wear their masks even more and social distance. People say it’s a nightmare and that’s an understatement,” said White.

The family does not know if the plasma will help heal what COVID-19 has hurt. However, the treatment is giving their family hope the virus will not separate them for much longer. 

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