Cary Blumenfeld and his wife, Leann, who is pregnant, were looking forward to welcoming a new member to their family. The timing was perfect. Both of their young sons were enjoying school. Business was thriving; they had just had a record year selling real estate in Atlanta. But then, one by one, the family fell ill with Covid-19.
It was Leann who got sick first, then Cary. Leann’s father, Steven Feldman, sent text messages and called daily to check in on them. It was around that time, too, that he began to exhibit similar symptoms to Cary. Fevers. Raging headaches. Strange taste sensations.
Just as the Blumenfelds were beginning to recover, Steven took a turn for the worse. He started having trouble breathing. An ambulance was called, and he was intubated that same night. The doctors tried everything to clear the virus, including hydroxychloroquine, but Steven’s condition showed little signs of improvement.
Running out of options, Cary contacted relatives in the medical profession and began discussing the use of convalescent plasma with Steven’s physicians, who advised it could be done for compassionate use.
Convalescent plasma is the liquid component of blood that can be collected from patients who have recovered from an infection. When somebody overcomes an illness, they produce life-saving antibodies – protective blood proteins that ward off antigens, like viruses – and those remain within the blood for a period of time (usually up to three months).
Under new FDA guidelines, only eligible blood donors who have had a documented diagnosis of Covid-19, and remain asymptomatic for at least 14 days post-recovery, may donate their plasma.
The idea is that these antibodies “can give a temporary assist by interfering with the virus until that person mounts an immune response,” according to the MIT Technology Review.
Cary’s family immediately put out a video through a local TV station asking for people who had survived the illness to donate blood, and got hundreds of responses – three of which resulted in the first donations of this kind to be made in the south-east United States.