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Recovered COVID-19 patient saves man’s life with plasma donation

This is a happy day for a Florida father of three. He’s out of a coma, recovering in the ICU and well on his way toward beating the coronavirus – thanks to an emergency injection of plasma.

Not just any plasma, but plasma donated by a recovered COVID-19 patient.

Researchers believe protective antibodies in the plasma of recovered patients can transfer immunity to a patient who is still sick, which is why doctors have been pushing for recovered patients to donate.

While there’s no scientific evidence it works, one family is convinced it does.

We send text messages to friends every day, but rarely does a text exchange save a life.

“I text him could you talk, he text me right back saying I can’t talk, I’m trying to find a needle in the haystack,” said James Crocker.

It turns out that Crocker was the needle in a haystack.

His friend, John Stemmberger, was trying to find a plasma donor to save Michael Rathel from COVID-19. Doctors feared the worst when they put Rathell into a medically-induced coma.

“From the beginning, I wanted to try and insisted in the hospital to try the plasma therapy. I asked about it. I heard about it probably about a month ago and I think I saw it on Facebook,” said Stacie Rathel, Michael’s wife.

Doctors agreed, but first, they had to find a donor.

When Stemmberger told Crocker about it, Crocker volunteered. He said he beat the coronavirus and had been symptom-free for more than 14 days.

“Here is a donor… I’m like, I’m not letting him go,” Stacie said.

They did the treatment and on Sunday, Michael started to show signs of improvement.

“I said, baby, you’ve been asleep for a week, and it’s time to get up now. It’s Easter morning and God has performed a miracle. I can’t make this up – he had tears rolling down his cheeks,” Stacie said.

As for Crocker, he’s so glad his ordinary text led to something special.

“If you did have it, don’t be ashamed by it, feel empowered by it and you can save a life,” Crocker said.

The surgery took place at Orlando Health, where Michael continues to recover.

OneBlood, which processed the plasma donation, urges everyone who recovers from COVID-19 to donate plasma for use in emergency cases or clinical trials.

There are three locations in Southwest Florida: Fort Myers, Cape Coral and Port Charlotte.

Reporter:Andrea Guerrero
Writer:Jackie Winchester
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