Vitalant hosts thank you event for local convalescent plasma donors
Dr. Nadine Lober honored for her efforts of organizing donations early during the pandemic
It’s hard to believe that over a year ago many people felt helpless as the grip of COVID-19 took over the nation and the world. Dr. Nadine Lober, a veterinarian and owner of Vail Valley Vet, shifted that feeling of helplessness and turned it into hope for the Vail community and beyond.
Dr. Lober had contracted COVID-19 in March of last year and as soon as she was able, she would travel to Denver to donate convalescent plasma to help others with COVID-19.
Vitalant, one of the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit transfusion medicine organizations, was at the Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa in Avon on Wednesday to personally thank plasma donors and partners in the community that made a difference in the lives of those afflicted with COVID-19. They also personally thanked Dr. Lober for her tireless efforts in bringing qualified donors to the convalescent plasma drives.
“A lot of people had heard about convalescent plasma and were very interested in helping but didn’t know how. Dr. Lober really helped us connect with those in the Vail area,” said Dr. Samantha Mack, medical director of the mountain division of Vitalant.
With the help of Dr. Lober’s sister, Dr. Alma Jules, assistant professor of anesthesiology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Dr. Lober was able to coordinate with Vitalant to organize mobile convalescent plasma drives last spring and summer.
“The demand far outpaced the number of donors. We were literally pleading for this product,” Dr. Mack said.
“We set up a Gmail email account, reached out to the community with an article in the Vail Daily and I was amazed at the response,” Dr. Lober said. “Vail had been a hot spot for COVID-19 early on and many people had recovered and wanted to help any way they could.”
Paul Nielsen of Colorado Springs was also invited to the event Vitalant hosted. He was a recipient of convalescent plasma and some of it came from a donor in Eagle County after he contracted COVID last April.
“I was within hours of being put on a ventilator and I was the first patient at Memorial North Hospital in Colorado Springs to receive convalescent plasma. It really stabilized me and turned things around,” Nielsen said.
Nielsen, a data architect who has written several technical, non-fiction books on database design and development, took his writing skills and wrote a book about his experience called “COVID Case 741.” He has also become a convalescent plasma donor himself.
“I’ve given plasma five times, which is enough to help 20 patients,” Nielsen said.
Over a year later, Dr. Lober still gets emotional when talking about coordinating and leading the charge to get convalescent plasma donated and connecting qualified donors with Vitalant.
“I still tear up and feel overwhelmed. To be able to make a difference in a small community and make a difference and save lives, I would do it all again,” Dr. Lober said.
Processes have continually changed in response to FDA guidance throughout the pandemic, so at this time, all convalescent plasma is derived from regular blood drives. Vitalant is able to produce convalescent plasma from blood donations that test positive for high levels of antibodies and that plasma can help COVID-19 patients while the other components go to meet other ongoing patient needs.
Blood donors of all types, especially those with Type O, are needed to be ready not just for elective surgeries and planned treatments but also for all the unexpected events.
According to vitalant.org, a single car crash victim could need 100 units of blood or more. Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs a blood transfusion. The Westin Riverfront conducted a blood drive last Wednesday, the same day as the thank you event, but there are two other blood drives in Summit County in May and June. For more information, go to vitalant.org.
Thursday, May 27
- Breckenridge Community Multi-Purpose Room
- 880 Airport Rd., Breckenridge
- Open 10 a.m.-1:45 p.m.
Tuesday, June 15
- Outlets at Silverthorne — Next to the Loft Outlet
- Unit 227-N. Blue River Parkway, Silverthorne
- Open 1 p.m.-5:45 p.m.