Iowa Convalescent Plasma Recipient Meets His Donor!
STANFORD, Calif. — This summer, Stanford Blood Center (SBC) and LifeServe Blood Center brought together two very special heroes. Shanti Minkstein, a photographer from San Francisco, California and Lance Becker, a banker from Des Moines, Iowa joined a Zoom call to discuss their experiences as COVID-19 survivors. They had never met before, but they share a bond that will last a lifetime. Shanti donated COVID-19 convalescent plasma (CCP) that may have saved Lance’s life. Now they’re urging other donors to pay it forward to help save lives during the global pandemic.
“I’d absolutely do it again. I feel that I have a purpose in being sick and to save a life, save another human,” said Shanti Minkstein, COVID-19 convalescent plasma donor at SBC.
In late March, the FDA provided guidance on an investigational treatment that involved taking plasma donations from recovered COVID-19 patients and transfusing that plasma into hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the hopes that the antibodies present in the donated plasma will help save the lives of the recipients. Although CCP has not yet been approved or licensed by the FDA, on August 23, the FDA issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for CCP based on currently available safety and efficacy data, which will increase access to this treatment for hospitalized COVID-19 patients.
Both Shanti and Lance battled COVID-19, but their road to recovery took very different paths. After returning from a trip to Mexico, Shanti began experiencing mild symptoms and soon after tested positive for the virus. She recovered quickly and wanted to give back. Her friend’s husband was critically ill, so Shanti was inspired to donate CCP at Stanford Blood Center. In early April, she became just the second recovered patient to make this special donation at SBC. One unit went to an anonymous patient halfway across the country. She even wondered if it was going to a certain celebrity!
“I thought you might have been Tom Hanks,” joked Minkstein. “They wouldn’t give me a name and I thought it might be a movie star. But I’m not disappointed!”
Lance’s journey was right out of a horror movie. After returning from a business trip he began to experience shortness of breath, was hospitalized on April 1, and spent the next 16 days on a ventilator. He was in bad shape; but on April 10 he received a CCP transfusion. Within a few days of receiving the CCP and continued aggressive medical support from his health care team, his lungs began to clear. He was back home by end of month.
“The fact that the symptoms range from a couple days of discomfort to full blown hospitalization… It’s a gamble if you don’t take it seriously,” said Lance Becker, convalescent plasma recipient and LifeServe donor. “You’re gambling with your life.”
Now Lance is doing his part. He recently overcame his fear of donating and made his first CCP donation at LifeServe Blood Center in his hometown, hoping it will help another COVID-19 patient.
“I’ve always been iffy about needles. I’ve tried to give blood before but have been unable to do so because I get so tense. But after being in the hospital and being poked and prodded, I’ve kind of dulled that fear,” said Becker. “When I was able to find out that this [CCP] is what kind of turned the tables for me and helped me out, it was a matter of, ‘Okay, well, now how can I do that for someone else?’”
It took a global pandemic to bring these strangers together, but they’re hoping their stories will inspire other COVID-19 survivors to step up and help save the lives of other hospitalized patients.
“The plasma most likely saved my life,” Becker continued, “so if you’re able to donate and you have the antibodies, I can’t think of an excuse not to.”
Minkstein added, “If you can survive this virus, it should be treated as a badge of honor and a [way] to help others out there. Don’t sit on it. If you’re sick, ride it through, do what you can to survive, and as soon as you’re able to… give back.”
You can view Shanti and Lance’s conversation in its entirety at: stanfordbloodcenter.org/SBCtv.
To find out how you can donate COVID-19 convalescent plasma and learn more about the recent emergency use authorization for CCP the FDA issued, please visit stanfordbloodcenter.org/covid19plasma or lifeservebloodcenter.org.
About Stanford Blood Center
Stanford Blood Center (SBC) is an independent, community blood center that supplies blood products and testing services to multiple Bay Area hospitals and is a recognized leader in the fields of transfusion and transplantation medicine. SBC was created at the Stanford University School of Medicine in 1978 to meet the complex transfusion and transplant needs of Stanford Health Care and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, as well as provide clinical trial services and specialized blood products for researchers. Today, the center remains locally focused, serving community hospitals, patients and donors, while contributing to research and advancement that impact the world at large. More information is available at stanfordbloodcenter.org.
About LifeServe Blood Center
LifeServe Blood Center is a non-profit, community based blood center that has served the needs of local hospitals and patients in our regions sine 1963. As one of the 15 largest blood centers in the country, LifeServe Blood Center is the SOLE provider of blood and blood products to more than 120 hospitals located across Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota, LifeServe is committed to saving lives by providing premier service to volunteer blood donors and access to a safe, quality blood supply for hospitals and patients. Your donation with LifeServe will help save your neighbor, a friend or family member or a stranger on the street. YOU make a difference in YOUR community. For more information about blood donation or to schedule an appointment to donate blood, call 800.287.4903 or visit www.lifeservebloodcenter.org.