Who We Are - Stephen

Covid-19 left Stephen hospitalised, now he’s donating plasma

Delivery line manager, Stephen Craib, from Twickenham Delivery Office, was hospitalised with Covid-19 at the end of March.

Two months after his full recovery, Stephen received a call from NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) asking if he was willing to donate his plasma – a yellow-ish liquid in the blood which carries red and white blood cells and platelets around the body. After a virus, plasma carries antibodies which are used to help fight infections.

NHSBT has been calling for people who have had Covid-19 to donate their plasma as there is evidence that ‘convalescent’ plasma (the antibody-rich plasma of someone who has recovered from coronavirus) could benefit Covid-19 patients who are struggling to develop their own immune response.

In October, Stephen made his 10th convalescent plasma donation, putting him in a select group of less than 10 people to have donated nine or more times across the country. On 26 November, he was filmed and photographed when he became the first person in England to donate plasma 15 times. On 10 December, he made his 17th donation.

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‘This is my part to give a little something back,’ said Stephen. ‘The NHS has been brilliant over the years, they’ve fixed me up more times than I can remember.’

Stephen caught Covid-19 at the end of March. He had been cycling earlier in the day but ‘woke up sweating buckets.’

‘Covid hit me like a steam train,’ said Stephen. ‘Even sitting up in bed was an effort, it took me 20 minutes just to get the energy.’

His sister, Angie, who had insisted he stay with her while he was sick since he lives alone, eventually called 111 and an ambulance took Stephen to St Helier Hospital where he stayed for eight days. He was one of their first coronavirus patients.

‘It was a very weird time,’ he said. ‘I felt like I was dying. I was in a four-bed ward for four days on my own. It was the loneliest place in the world. Everyone was in PPE. I was struggling to breathe. But I was so out of it that I don’t remember feeling scared.’

Stephen’s temperature tipped 40°C, his oxygen levels dropped to 85 per cent, and he was suffering from Covid-induced pneumonia. He was put on oxygen and antibiotics and given nebulizers four times a day to keep his airways open.

Stephen has been donating his plasma every two weeks since the end of May. The process for each plasma donation takes about 45 minutes, with the whole visit, including the donation and health checks, taking around an hour and 15 minutes.

‘Give the NHS a Christmas present,’ said Stephen. ‘It doesn’t hurt. To me, it’s “why wouldn’t I do it if I have the antibodies to help someone else?”’

In each donation, 560ml of plasma (the equivalent of a pint) is collected. Once the plasma has been removed, it is separated from the red blood cells, which are then pumped back into the body. The body replaces the plasma and antibodies within 24-48 hours.

‘I love working for Royal Mail,’ said Stephen. ‘What we as a business have managed to do during these challenging times is quite simply, amazing. I have worked in many offices, but none come close to Twickenham and the team we have here.’

11 Dec 2020