Whether we like it or not, atleast one conversation in a day revolves around COVID-19; it’s spread, the potential cure, and life post lockdown. The urgency to find a cure is on all our minds. At this time, plasma therapy that a few states have been trying is a ray of hope.
23-year Smruti Thakkar, a resident of Ahmedabad, Gujarat and a COVID-19 survivor, has become the state’s first plasma donor.
The Better India (TBI) caught up with Smruti who explained what the process was like, how she felt, and why people who have fought and won against COVID-19 must come forward to donate plasma if they can.
Getting Diagnosed with COVID-19
Smruti is pursuing a Masters Course in Luxury Brand Management in Paris, France. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, she soon complained of feeling weak and her several attempts at fixing an appointment with a doctor were unsuccessful as the hospital kept cancelling them. On 19 March 2020, given the situation in Paris, she decided to return home. She landed in India and declared that she was feeling unwell.
“I was taken to the Civil hospital directly from the airport but was told that it was a regular flu and that I should go home and rest it out. However, just the next day I developed more symptoms like a cough and sore throat and that is when I went back to the hospital.”
On 21 March, when the results came in positive, Smruti was shifted to the COVID-19 ward at the Civil hospital. Smruti struggled to come to terms with the results of testing positive for a disease that has no cure in sight.
“I will be lying if I said there was no fear. I remember getting my report at 11.00 at night, and they immediately transferred me to the ward with other COVID-19 patients. It was a tough phase.”
Smruti is all praises for the staff at the hospital responsible for all the COVID-19 positive patients. “Some of the stereotypes I had were shattered. Contrary to my misgivings, the government facility was spick and span. From the food to the cleanliness, everything was great.’
Fortunately, fate chose to smile on the young woman as 17 days later, Smruti was declared COVID-19 free. “What kept me going through the time in the hospital were the doctors and the support staff. They were not just upbeat and positive but earnestly took care of us,” shares Smruti.
From Survivor to Plasma Donor
On 6 April 2020, Smruti returned home. She informs that her doctors contacted her ten days after her discharge to talk to her about plasma therapy.
“They explained how the State had permission for plasma therapy, walked me through the entire process and what it means for me. They also told me about the potential patients whom I would be helping by this,” shares Smruti. Some of the fears that the doctors helped allay included – excessive weakness after the process, chances of COVID-19 relapse, and possible side effects.
“The Health Commissioner of Gandhinagar too contacted me and reassured me about the procedure,” says Smruti.
How is the Plasma Extracted?
On the designated day, Smruti went to the hospital and underwent a general blood test, a swab test, and a full-body check-up before the procedure. “They took me to a thoroughly sanitised room and asked me to sit in a chair. Once comfortable and ready, they extracted my blood. The doctor collected the plasma in a separate bag, and once done, the blood was transfused back into my body. So there was no blood loss. All I felt were some vibrations during the blood transfusion,” says Smruti.
The procedure was easy, and Smruti says that the staff gave her enough liquids, food, and vitamin supplements.
“I am so glad that I did this, and if I am called upon again to do it, I would go without any second thoughts.”
“Given that I have recovered from COVID-19, the doctors assured me that the antibodies that I am producing now are stronger. They took a minimal quantity of plasma from me, just about 400 ml. The body produces it quickly, and in about ten days I will be fit and able to donate again,” says Smruti with a smile.
At the time when Smruti donated, two critical patients at the Civil hospital were on the ventilator. “The plasma I donated was given to a 50-year-old patient. He was on ventilator support, and after the transfusion, he has been taken off the ventilator. The hope is that he gets fine soon and is declared COVID-19 free.”
Smruti has an appeal for everyone, “Stay home, stay safe for sure and if you are eligible to donate plasma, then please do not think twice about it. You could potentially be saving lives, and all you need is to set aside 99 minutes of your time.”
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)