las colinas

Family Says Plasma Donation Helped Woman Fight COVID-19

Doctors are urging people who have had COVID-19 and now test negative to donate plasma to help others.

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Medical City Las Colinas said it has successfully transfused donated blood plasma from a fully recovered COVID-19 patient into critically ill patients.

The hospital said three out of four patients who received the donated plasma have been discharged from the hospital.

"Since they did a plasma transfusion on my mom, we started noticing improvement after like four days," said Fabian Zavala, whose mother was one of those recipients. "And thanks for the plasma transfusion, it saved her from being intubated.”

Zavala and his whole family have tested positive COVID-19.

"I had a fever, cough and back pain. It was just the worst, I felt like an 18-wheeler drove all over me," said Zavala, who has battled the disease for the last 42 days.

He's not alone. His parents, siblings, their significant others and his 91-year-old aunt all contracted the virus.

His 65-year-old father, Jose, has diabetes and has been in the intensive care unit for three weeks. His 58-year-old mother, Teresa, was in the hospital too, but was discharged after she received the plasma.

Medical City Healthcare is one of 172 hospitals from the HCA Healthcare Network taking part in the clinical research, which is being led by the Mayo Clinic.

"Convalescent plasma is actually taking antibodies from someone who has recovered from COVID-19 and then, after screening appropriately, we use those antibodies to help someone recover quicker who is in the midst of active COVID-19," explained Dr. Steven Davis, the medical director of infection prevention at Medical City Las Colinas.

He said the results have been encouraging and that the transfusion does seem to help people recover faster and reduce their oxygen requirement faster.

"We see more beneficial results in those who receive the plasma early rather than waiting until they’re very, very ill," Davis said.

He said none of this would happen if it wasn't for the donors.

"The generosity of people donating their plasma after recovering from a serious illness like COVID-19 is always astounding to me, how generous that is for a person to take their own blood serum and to donate that at the plasma center in the hopes of making someone better, warms my heart," he said.

On of those donors is Jason Ulloa. It was his plasma donation that was given to the four individuals and helped Zavala's mother.

Ulloa became sick after he returned home from a trip to New Jersey in early March.

“It’s probably one of the worst things I’ve gone through in my life so far," he said of the virus, which he had form about two weeks.

Ulloa said he was motivated to help others, and that's why he donated his plasma

“I felt that if I was able to recover from it and somehow I produce antibodies to help somebody else out and I had the ability to do so, I felt like it was my calling," Ulloa said. "You know, God put me in a position to help somebody else and I'm all for it."

Zavala's mother said in Spanish that she was grateful to him.

"The donor who donated his plasma saved my mom's life, same with God," Zavala said.

“It rejoices my heart, like I was part of something negative, but I was able to help put something positive in someone else," Ulloa said.

Zavala said his father is improving after received plasma from someone who recovered from the virus.

"After that transfusion, three days after, they've started reducing the oxygen supply. Right now he's at one liter and that’s a great improvement over a week," Zavala said.

"That’s our focus, is encouraging people who’ve recovered form COVID-19 to think about donating their plasma to help someone whose in the midst of it to recover faster," Davis said.

People who had COVID-19 and now test negative can donate plasma either through the American Red Cross or find a local donation center.

To find out more about the donation process, eligibility and locations to donate in North Texas, please call the dedicated COVID-19 plasma pone line at 833-582-1971 or visit HCA Healthcare’s plasma donation website.

Tracking COVID-19 Cases in North Texas Counties

NBC 5 is tracking the number of COVID-19 related cases, recoveries and deaths in North Texas counties. Choose a county and click on a city or town to see how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting your area.

Cases are cumulative by day and are subject to change, dependent on each county health department's reporting schedule and methodology. Data may be reported county-wide, by city or town, or not at all. Cases, recoveries and death counts in 'unspecified' categories are used as placeholders and reassigned by their respective counties at a later date.

Data: County Health Departments, NBC 5 Staff
Nina Lin/NBC

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