COVID-19 Almost Killed Me — Until I Got Plasma From A Survivor

by Lacy Atkinson
Scary Mommy and zoranm/Getty

Taking holiday photos is usually a pain point for my family, but this year we were elated to have the opportunity to continue this tradition. Shopping for coordinated colors and dressing up in festive attire was no longer a chore after what our family experienced: surviving the coronavirus just weeks prior.

In addition to my family and an awesome medical team, credit goes to the most generous stranger—a person I’ll never meet.

Mornings are like a sprint to get my 11-year-old daughter, Annika, and seven-year-old son, Atlee, ready for school. My husband, Nick, helps where he can. The remainder of my day is a hodgepodge of school drop offs and pickups, laundry, cleaning, meal prepping and sometimes I help my husband with our family business. Ordinarily a little caffeine is all I need to keep me going.

I knew something had to be terribly wrong when I could barely muster the strength to drive my kids to school. Instead of tackling my usual checklist, I slept hard. Joint pain, shivering uncontrollably and a pounding headache left me wondering, “Could I have COVID?” I rushed to get tested and waited for days in anticipation of the results.

Each day my symptoms worsened, and I was finally notified of what I suspected: I had COVID-19. I spiked a 105-degree fever, had a deep cough, loss of appetite, uncontrollable vomiting and struggled with shortness of breath. I was violently ill, with no glimpse of improvement. An unproductive visit to the emergency room led to a pop-up visit at urgent care days later.

My resting heart rate was dangerously high at 240—well over the normal 60-100 beats per minute. My body was so overwhelmed by the coronavirus, I lost consciousness and woke up on the cold linoleum floor. Seconds later a medic was whisking me away in an ambulance headed to the hospital.

Courtesy of Lacy Atkinson

I was admitted to the hospital and an infectious disease doctor told me that I developed severe pneumonia in both of my lungs—I felt miserable. Unable to breathe on my own, I relied on oxygen, which was uncomfortably placed up my nose. I was in such bad shape that when I used video chat to communicate with my family, my appearance scared my poor kids and they started bawling! The thought still breaks my heart.

A cocktail of steroids and antiviral medications weren’t helping and just as I was losing all hope, I recalled my daughter slipping a note inside the pocket of my hooded sweatshirt before I left to the hospital. I asked the nurse to check to see if it was still there. It was! I read her neat handwriting and was comforted by her sweet message, “Feel better Mommy and I hope you get well soon.”

Just as I wanted to give up fighting this cruel and unrelenting virus, my doctor walked in and began to share he had only one additional treatment to offer me: convalescent plasma from a COVID-19 survivor.

He said plasma was the best shot they had to keep me off a ventilator and explained how the antibodies in the plasma would help my body fight the virus. I immediately consented to the plasma treatment and signed the paperwork. That day, after a blood test, I was transfused with plasma donated by a COVID-19 survivor. It was so simple—taking only about 40 minutes. By the next morning my symptoms started to improve. My fever finally broke. My oxygen levels increased until I no longer needed supplemental oxygen—slowly I regained my energy and my strength.

Throughout this pandemic, I’ve felt isolated from familiar comforts and loved ones; battling the coronavirus was particularly lonely. However, receiving a lifesaving plasma transfusion, donated by a stranger who survived COVID-19 and wanted help other patients like me, felt like a huge embrace from all the loved ones I’ve missed during these challenging months.

This holiday season all I want is my family. I appreciate every moment we spend together, and I no longer sweat the small stuff. I’m getting to know my kids and husband in a new way, and it feels so good! I am still recovering from the effects of COVID-19, but once I’m eligible to donate my plasma I’m scheduling an appointment to give at my local Red Cross to join this community of strangers who are helping one another heal. Without a doubt, the generosity of a COVID-19 survivor is why I’m here today and I can’t wait to share this gift with a coronavirus patient in need.

Information about COVID-19 is rapidly changing, and Scary Mommy is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. With news being updated so frequently, some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For this reason, we are encouraging readers to use online resources from local public health departments, the Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization to remain as informed as possible.