XENIA — Dozens of COVID-19 survivors in the Miami Valley have answered the call donate COVID-19 convalescent plasma (CCP) to help coronavirus patients survive. For Xenia donor Kristina Drazek, it became her destiny.
Drazek, 27, made her sixth CCP donation Aug. 6 at Community Blood Center and is one of the top donors in the CCP program. She was working at home for PSA Airlines in March when she became ill and tested positive for COVID-19.
“It was kind of like flu, but worse for me,” she said. “The loss of smell, the body aches, especially my shoulders and back. I was tired all the time and had to force myself to get out of bed and go downstairs to work.”
CBC was the first blood center in Ohio to launch a CCP collection program in early April. Drazek started looking for a way to donate convalescent plasma before she was completely recovered, and even before the program was up and running.
“My mom was so scared I’d have to go the hospital,” she said. “I got to stay at home and recover. She was a nurse back in the day, and she was curious about convalescent plasma working for COVID-19. We actually contacted (CBC) before they started taking the plasma. They called back and I got in.”
After the required waiting period with no symptoms, she made her first donation May 14. She began donating every two weeks. After four donations, and the required one-month off, she continued to donate.
“I feel like if I can help somebody then that’s one less person who might not die from it,” Drazek said. “I mean this is essentially like a fight. We have to fight back, and convalescent plasma is one of the fighting mechanisms.”
She had seen her father benefit from blood transfusion during his treatment for a rare form of lymphoma. It required special care at the Arkansas Cancer Research Center, a stem cell transplant, and eventually took his life.
“He had to have chemo and radiation, and when they did a stem cell transplant, that’s when he received blood the most,” Drazek said. “My mom donated directly for him. I wanted to do it because he went through that. He needed blood and I wanted to give back. I want to be able to help people. I have the ability to, so why not?”
She felt the full impact of fulfilling her destiny as a CCP donor when she received notifications that her plasma had touched the life a patient in need.
“It’s an amazing feeling to help somebody and to get a phone call that says you saved a life,” Drazek said. “I have gotten two now. One after my first donation. ‘You saved a life. This person is now alive – they came off a ventilator.’ I felt really good and started crying. I told my mom and she started crying too. It was pretty great.”