‘I want the next life saved like mine’: SC man with COVID-19 advocates for convalescent plasma donations

SC man with COVID-19 advocates for convalescent plasma donations

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A Columbia man is sharing his battle with COVID-19 with the hopes it will encourage more South Carolinians who’ve had the virus to donate convalescent plasma. He says this treatment saved his life.

36-year-old JaCoby Boykins is veteran, wrestler, and father to three sons, and he says he’s never experienced anything like COVID-19. “My health deteriorated at a very, very high rate,” Boykins explained.

In just a matter of three days, Boykins went from hitting the gym to not being able to talk or eat. “My kidneys began to fail. I was dehydrated. My body was shutting down. I said if I don’t get into the hospital, I’m going to die. I could tell,” he said.

He was hospitalized at the Columbia VA last Monday. When doctors discussed treatment options, he says they told him about convalescent plasma, which is blood donated from recovered COVID-19 patients. “I didn’t even know that was an option until I was admitted to the hospital,” Boykins noted.

But he has a rare blood type of B positive, and the hospital didn’t have a plasma supply for him locally. On Monday, a donor was located in Massachusetts, and Boykins received treatment that same day. “It’s like getting an instant boost of orange juice in your system or something like because it really helps,” he said.

Dr. Robert Rainer is the medical director of the Blood Connection and says 80-90 percent of COVID-19 patients treated with convalescent plasma are seeing a positive response. “When it does work, it’s kind of a miraculous turnaround, and I’m talking within hours,” said Dr. Rainer. 

However, only 10-20 percent of people who have tested positive for the virus are actually donating their plasma. With more requests coming in daily than plasma available, Rainer says they’re scrambling to find donors. " I am concerned about going back into a rationing type of event, and there’s no doubt that some people will not get this product,” he noted.

That’s why Boykins is spreading the word about the importance of plasma donations. “I want the next life saved like mine was,” said Boykins. “I want to make sure people get well because this is a different kind of pain that nobody should have to go through.”

The Blood Connection says if they can get 30 to 40 percent of the total number of recovered COVID-19 patients to donate plasma, they could get into an excess situation, where there is enough of the treatment for those in need.

That’s because one donation can help three patients.

The Blood Connection and Prisma Health Tuomey Hospital are teaming up for a community blood drive Thursday, July 30 at the American Legion Building in Sumter from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. All donors will receive a $10 visa card. Donors at this blood drive will also be tested for COVID-19 antibodies. You can find more information about that event here.

If you can’t make that event, you can go to the Blood Connection’s semi-permanent fixed-site Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Columbia to donate whole blood. That site is inside the Center for Health and Well Being on the USC Campus: 1409 Devine Street, Columbia, SC 29208. Donors can make an appointment here.

The Columbia VA Hospital told WIS “Donating blood is one of the most important things someone can do right now to help fight this pandemic.  It is crucial that we make sure we have blood supply available as we start to reintroduce more services and surgeries.” The Columbia VA will also be hosting a needed Blood Drive on August 19th from 11:30 am to 4:30 pm. All individuals are encouraged to sign up to donate at the Red Cross’ website.

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