30th April 2020
A Stockport GP who’s been fighting Covid-19 on two fronts has now added a third battle after becoming one of the first people in the country to donate her plasma to combat the virus.
Dr Cath Briggs was part of the clinical team that planned the set-up of Manchester’s Nightingale Hospital as well as working at her practice in Heavily, Stockport.
But when she got a call from the NHS Blood and Transplant service to donate her plasma for a clinical trial, she jumped at the chance to help out.
The NHS service is leading a major new programme to collect convalescent plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19 to support a national clinical trial.
Convalescent plasma is plasma from people who have recovered from the infection and contains antibodies that their immune systems have produced in fighting the virus.
The trial will investigate whether plasma transfusions could improve a COVID-19 patient’s speed of recovery and chances of survival.
Cath, who’s 46 and the clinical chair of Stockport CCG, developed COVID-19 in mid-March and had five days of moderate flu symptoms, followed by a day of feeling better, then several more days of high temperatures and shortness of breath.
She said: “I feel relief to have recovered without a hospital admission and now to be nearly back to normal. But this is then mixed with a sense of sadness for those – including colleagues – who have lost their lives.
“I was contacted by NHS Blood and Transplant to ask if I could donate plasma. I felt really honoured to be able to have a chance to give something back and turn a pretty nasty two weeks into something positive.
“It was a really lovely experience to donate. I was telephoned again the day before the appointment so that one of the team could talk me through what to expect and also give me information to help me understand and consent to the procedure.
“On the day, I arrived 15 minutes before the appointment and had some checks done, including checking for anaemia. The nurse then checked my veins to see if they were big enough to donate.
“I was looked after by a very nice nurse. They put a needle put into a vein in my arm – which didn’t hurt – and I was then connected to the machine for about an hour.
“I watched as my blood was separated and plasma was collected in a bag. The machine is very clever and gives back the red blood cells and so at the end of the procedure, I didn’t feel any ill effects. Just went home and had my tea and followed the advice with a very lazy evening.”
The trials will investigate whether transfusions may improve a patient’s speed of recovery and chances of survival. Plasma can also be collected and frozen ahead of any second wave of COVID-19.
Although there is some evidence of patient benefit from the use of convalescent plasma, the safety and effectiveness of transfusions needs to be confirmed by a robust clinical trial.
The transfusion service has only recently begun because the plasma can’t be collected until at least 28 days after recovery. This is because it is important that potential donors have recovered and their body has had time to develop a good antibody response.
If people have a confirmed positive test result and they are willing to donate, they can also provide details through a form on the NHSBT website, www.nhsbt.nhs.uk.
The service will be prioritising donors who are best placed to help so we there may be short delay in responding to some people.