RUSSIA – Barb Cordonnier knew her family was among many in the Russia community exposed to COVID-19 after an outbreak in early fall.
After her 90-year-old mother Suzanne “Boots” Groff survived the coronavirus with the help of convalescent plasma, Cordonnier was inspired to organize Shelby County’s first COVID-19 plasma drive Nov. 23 at St. Remy’s Hall and to fill all appointments.
Despite the pandemic, St. Remy’s Hall has continued to host its two traditional community blood drives. The new plasma drive on Nov. 23 drive was exclusively for convalescent plasma collection and totaled eight donors.
Each plasma donation is commonly divided into three doses and sent immediately to Community Blood Center’s partner hospitals. Most are experiencing a surge in coronavirus patients and are in urgent need of convalescent plasma.
Cordonnier started having allergy-like symptoms in early October. When she tested positive for COVID-19 her first concern was for her mother.
“I stayed in the parking lot and called my mom,” she said.
Doctors at first diagnosed bronchitis, but then her mother’s COVID-19 test came back.
“They called and said, ‘You’re positive. We need to put you in the hospital,’” Cordonnier said. “She was there a full week. They said we’re going to give you Remdesivir and convalescent plasma. Less than 48 hours after that first dose, what a difference in her voice it made. She was not a 100%, but she got to come home.”
Cordonnier called CBC account representative Dana Puterbaugh to cancel a whole blood appointment because of her recent coronavirus infection.
“I told her about my mom and said it would be nice to be able to pay that back with a convalescent plasma drive,” Cordonnier said. “She helped me get it on the schedule.”
Her next step was to spread the word on social media and personally reach out to neighbors she knew had also survived COVID-19.
“I was hoping people would want to help, and obviously they did,” she said. “I don’t think it took us 24 hours to get appointments filled or people saying they would.”
Cordonnier’s personal approach worked easily with first-time donor Zachery Bell, a Wright State University student.
“She knew I had COVID; we’re neighbors,” Bell said. “She told my mom, and my mom told her, ‘I’m doing it! I’m not opposed to it.’”
Russia middle school teacher Elizabeth Knapke was also a first-time donor.
“Barb reached out to me,” Knapke said. “I knew the story about her mom and thought it would be a good thing to do.”
Russia donor Katherine Tompkin came to donate with her daughter Lauren Monnin, a Sinclair College student. Like Cordonnier, multiple members of their family had COVID-19, and they wanted to support the Russia plasma drive.
“It’s convenient coming here,” Tompkin said.
Convalescent plasma donor Derron Wilson tested positive in late August.
“I had a mild fever and was coughing and sleeping all the time,” Wilson said. “All I did was sleep for nine days.”
He was determined to donate at the Russia plasma drive because his daughter is a young nurse on the front line of the pandemic.
“My daughter works at Miami Valley Hospital in the COVID ward,” Wilson said. “Her knowing the patients, I didn’t think there was any other choice.”
Donors are required to provide a photo ID that includes their full name. Past CBC donors also are asked to bring their CBC donor ID card.
Donors must be at least 17 years of age (16 years old with parental consent: form available at www.givingblood.org or at CBC branch and blood drive locations), weigh a minimum of 110 pounds (donors may have to weigh more, depending on their height) and be in good physical health. The Food and Drug Administration changes blood donor eligibility guidelines periodically.