By Kathleen Berger, Executive Producer for Science & Technology
St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Famer Jim Edmonds recently recovered from COVID-19 and visited Mercy Hospital St. Louis in early May to donate plasma for others fighting the illness. The former center fielder for the Cardinals is encouraging survivors to donate. Every donation can help up to three people hospitalized with COVID-19.
On May 4, Edmonds returned to the hospital for the first time after an emergency room visit when he said he felt like he couldn’t breathe. Edmonds described the progression of the illness as a scary experience.
“Everyone says ‘It’s not going to happen to me’, and then finally you lay there and think, ‘Oh man, it’s happening to me and what if I don’t get help. Am I going to be one of those statistics?” Edmonds explained. “All of a sudden two to three nights of no sleep and I couldn’t breathe.”
Now that he’s recovered, Edmonds wants people to know about all the good things he’s experiencing at Mercy Hospital St. Louis.
“I feel bad that all we see is bad stuff on the news, but there’s good things go on,” said Edmonds.
As he was donating his plasma, Edmonds described the simplicity of the plasma donation process.
“Clearly I’m giving blood and there’s a needle in my arm, but relaxing,” he said. “Just doing what I think you’re supposed to do which is to help the community.”
Dr. Emily Schindler is the medical director of Mercy Blood Donor Services in St. Louis. She explained how the COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Program is part of the FDA’s investigation into the use of plasma.
“Anything we can do to help people, we really need to be looking at as a opportunity,” said Schindler.
The plasma is the liquid part of the blood that may treat the infection by transfusing the plasma from survivors into COVID-19.
“Basically taking one person’s immune response and transplanting that into another person’s body,” she explained. “We’re taking the antibodies from one person who recovered and putting them into the body of a person who is really sick and not able to fight off the infection.”
Even when the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients decline, more donors are still encouraged.
“From a supply standpoint, once we collect it, we freeze it,” she said. “So we are able to save those doses for when they’re needed and they’re actually good for up to a year after collections. So we are trying to build our supplies if we would see another surge later in the year.”