As a Hoxworth Blood Center employee and longtime blood donor, Jackie Marschall has a keen understanding of how blood donation impacts the community.
It’s no surprise, then, that when she was diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus, she immediately knew that she wanted to donate convalescent plasma to help patients fighting against the virus.
Jackie, who joined the Hoxworth public relations team in 2019, began to notice the symptoms of the novel coronavirus in mid-August of 2020. Her first indication was when she noticed that all of her meals had become completely flavorless; shortly thereafter, the extreme, persistent fatigue set in. Normally an avid runner, Jackie found herself sleeping close to 12 hours a day but still feeling exhausted.
After a nasal swab test at her local Kroger Little Clinic, she was officially diagnosed with COVID-19.
“Luckily, my COVID-19 symptoms were light – loss of taste, loss of smell, and fatigue for the first few days,” Jackie recalls. “That lasted about 3 weeks total. The worst part definitely being no sense of taste. Not being able to enjoy food was a weird feeling to me.”
Fortunately, Jackie never had to go to the hospital for severe respiratory symptoms, and after a few weeks of rest, she has “bounced back to 100% …I feel very healthy and can finally enjoy some delicious food.”
While her own experience with the novel coronavirus was relatively mild compared to others, Jackie recognized that she had an obligation—and a unique ability— to help some of the most ill COVID-19 patients in her community with her newly-developed antibodies.
Jackie was present when Hoxworth’s very first convalescent plasma donors rolled up their sleeves in April of 2020, and she was blown away by their selflessness and commitment to helping others. She has also seen firsthand the many units of plasma that Hoxworth has distributed to local hospitals and the Department of Defense in an effort to combat the virus that has taken over 100,000 lives in the United States alone.
For her, donating her plasma was never a question, and she immediately signed up to donate following her official diagnosis.
“Convalescent plasma is one of the only treatments available for COVID-19 patients right now, but actual convalescent plasma products are limited,” she says. “Because I’m an active blood donor, I felt an obligation to donate my plasma to help our local healthcare workers treat the thousands of COVID patients they see daily. The pandemic is still here and we don’t have a clear end in sight, so we have to work together as a community because we are all in this together.”
And, she adds, the process of donating plasma is easy—after filling out the required paperwork and confirming her diagnosis, it’s as simple as relaxing in a donor chair.
“The entire process only took me about an hour and a half, with the needle in my arm for 37 minutes!” she says. “The team at Hoxworth Central took extremely great care of me and walked me through the entire procedure.”
Though she’s been a Hoxworth donor for years—having given whole blood, red cells, and even specially-ordered white blood cells—the thrill of donating hasn’t gone away for Jackie. For her, the best part is knowing that she’s helping someone in need in her hometown.
“Donating with Hoxworth means that someone local will be receiving my blood, or in this case, plasma,” she says. “It feels amazing being able to give back during a pandemic that affects everyone, but it feels even more amazing that I’m helping someone right here in my community.”
And while she hopes that her neighbors do their best to avoid the virus by wearing masks and practicing social distancing, she encourages anyone who has recovered from COVID-19 to consider putting their antibodies to good use. After all, she says, we’re all in this together.
“Donating my plasma is the least that I could do to help someone through their COVID diagnosis, and I hope others come out to donate as well.”
If you've recovered from COVID-19 and are interested in donating convalescent plasma, fill out the questionnaire here: https://hoxworth.org/covid-19