Mumbai’s plasma heroes come to the rescue of Covid-19 patients
With blood donations seeing record lows and worries of contracting Covid-19, finding plasma donors has been a challenge for many. Fortunately, good Samaritans in the city have been helping connect plasma donors with patients.
In August, Krishnan Bhandari, 59, was rushed to the intensive care unit in Nanavati Hospital, after he contracted Covid-19 and developed pneumonia. The doctors suggested plasma therapy. “We hopelessly searched for a donor for almost two days,” said Bhandari’s daughter, Mohini. Finally, she found Plasma In Need For Transfusion (PINT), a pan-India network of plasma donors. “Within 24 hours of registration, I got a donor who came to the hospital and donated plasma under my father’s name. He was like a god to us,” said Mohini. Bhandari returned home on August 31 after recovering from Covid-19.
PINT was set up by Dr Neil Pinto, 24, and Karina Thakrar, a graduate from from Loyola Marymount University, in July 2020. “We match the details of patients with registered donors. Once we get a match, we immediately send the contact details of the donors to patients,” Dr Pinto said. So far, over 240 recovered Covid-19 patients and over 3,400 patients have registered with PINT. “We have been able to save over 400 Covid-19 patients across 12 cities in India,” said Dr Pinto.
He has recently started a campaign on Ketto, an online crowdfunding website, to raise money to help Covid-19 patients in their treatment and assist blood banks in conducting antibody tests that are required for donors to donate plasma.
Business developer Ronak Shah, 30, has also been helping Covid patients find plasma donors. “I have been associated with blood donation campaigns for years so many social workers have my number. Between May and August, when the pandemic was at its peak, I used to get calls even in the middle of the night, seeking plasma,” said Shah, who lives in Bhayandar. Working with a few blood banks, which were grappling with shortages, Shah created a data bank for recovered patients who wanted to donate plasma.
Twelve years after Bandra resident Balu Nayar started a Twitter account (@BloodDonorIndia) to help connect blood donors to patients, the handle became a lifeline for many searching for plasma. Last year, the handle received 28,000 requests of which 20% were related to plasma. “During the pandemic, we were overwhelmed with responses as we recorded almost 200% surge in demands. Some people had to struggle for days to arrange for a donor,” said Nayar.
Convalescent plasma therapy uses plasma from recovered patients of Covid-19 as their plasma contains antibodies that can fight the infection. While the country’s largest trial for this therapy suggests it is not effective at severe stages of Covid-19, plasma therapy has its supporters. Dr Arpita Dwivedi, head of the critical care unit at LH Hiranandani Hospital in Powai, said, “We have seen faster recovery among moderately-ill patients who are treated with Covid-19. It helps provide relief to patients who have problems with breathing.”
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