In early March, Idaho State College student, Lijah Van Gardner attended a medical conference in Las Vegas with several other colleagues. Approximately two weeks after his trip, Gardner began to develop what he thought was the flu -experiencing fever, chills, body aches and eye pain. These symptoms lasted for a couple of days, then subsided. Soon after that he experienced new symptoms that included throat irritation and a complete loss of smell and taste.
During this time, the coronavirus was gaining traction and six or seven days into his illness, Gardner decided to self-isolate to avoid spreading his flu-like symptoms to his roommates. Out of an abundance of caution, he decided to get tested for COVID-19 at a Boise hospital.
Shortly after taking the test, he received a call confirming a positive result.
Gardner now believes he might have been infected with the virus at the conference in Las Vegas.
“There were several other of my colleagues who attended the same conference and developed symptoms around the same time as I did — about two
weeks after the conference,” said Gardner. “I know another person who tested positive after this conference, and several others who showed symptoms, but were not tested.”
Although Gardner was not critically ill and had mild symptoms that eventually disappeared, through his online research, he learned about how recovered COVID-19 patients could help critically ill patients also recover.
“I saw that the Red Cross started collecting convalescent plasma for use in patients with COVID-19,” said Gardner. “I was so fortunate not to have COVID-19 progress into something worse and I would love to prevent it from becoming worse in vulnerable patients.”
After a month of being symptom free, Gardner was able to schedule a convalescent plasma donation with the Red Cross Boise blood donation center. As a first-time donor, he wasn’t sure what to expect but said it was the staff and volunteers who made the process easy and quicker than he imagined. Especially since he was able to multitask his school work with donating lifesaving plasma.
“The actual donation took just about an hour. As a medical student I never have any trouble figuring out how to pass an hour of time — I study,” said Gardner. “The donation center was a nice, quiet environment for me to read one of my medical textbooks.”
When asked if he would donate again in 28 days, he excitedly said, “Yes! I’d like to continue helping in any way I can.” Gardner continued, “As a student entering the healthcare field I’m not quite yet on the frontline, so donating what I have is what I can do right now to help people.”
People who have fully recovered from COVID-19 are encouraged to sign up to donate convalescent plasma by completing the donor information form
To be eligible, individuals must meet all regular blood donor requirements and be symptom free and fully recovered from the virus.
Once they’ve completed the donor information form, a Red Cross representative will follow up to confirm eligibility.
The donation process takes about 90 minutes.