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COVID-19 survivor meets plasma donor who aided his recovery

Doctors considered putting Paul Nielsen on a ventilator back in May. He believes receiving convalescent plasma aided his recovery.

DENVER — A man who was in the hospital with COVID-19 in May and nearly put on a ventilator before he received convalescent plasma from another COVID-19 survivor, met two of the donors he believes helped him recover from the virus.

“I’m really convinced that had my family not brought me to the E.R. and I didn’t have that plasma, that’s the night that I probably would not have survived,” Paul Nielsen said. “The plasma was the key ingredient. I’m not a doctor, I don’t know for certain, but to me, that’s what I credit as saving my life was the plasma.”  

Nielsen visited the Vitalant Lowry Donation Center Wednesday where he met with one of his donors in person and shared his recovery story.

Amos Bailey, a palliative care doctor in Denver, was one of two donors who provided plasma to Nielsen. Bailey had COVID-19 early in March and he finally was able to meet Nielsen in person. 

Credit: Vitalant
Paul Nielsen and Amos Bailey

“I spent a lot of time working in the intensive care units, working with the doctors and families trying to make difficult decisions for their loved ones who were dying from COVID," Bailey said. “It was very scary because I had been sick with COVID myself.”

Nielsen’s other donor, Tracee Metcalfe, a hospitalist in Vail, was able to meet him via Zoom. She, too, contracted and recovered from COVID early in the pandemic.

“Luckily I had a mild illness and I was able to go back to work pretty quickly and I felt grateful for that because I really wanted to be part of helping people,” Metcalfe said. “I felt happy I could come back to work and take care of patients, and when the opportunity to give plasma arose I was delighted to be able to do that.”

Credit: Vitalant
Tracee Metcalfe

Early on in the pandemic, the Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for convalescent plasma to be used in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Plasma is the yellow, liquid part of blood that contains antibodies, which are proteins made by the body in a response to an infection.

Months after his own recovery, Paul Nielsen paid it forward in December and donated his own antibody-rich plasma. Vitalant tests all donations for COVID-19 antibodies and informs donors of their results.

RELATED: VERIFY: What to know about convalescent plasma treatments

If positive, Vitalant may be able to produce convalescent plasma from the donation to treat patients currently battling COVID to give them an extra boost to fight their illness, while the other blood components from the donation are vital to help patients undergoing surgery, receiving treatment for cancer or requiring regular transfusions for a chronic condition.

RELATED: Plasma recipient shares COVID-19 recovery story

Blood donation is an essential and necessary healthcare activity permitted to continue during the pandemic. Vitalant follows strict protocols to ensure the safety of donors, patients and staff, including checking temperatures, social distancing, disinfecting public areas and requiring face masks.

To schedule an appointment to donate, please visit vitalant.org or call 877-25-VITAL (877-258-4825).