ASBP: In this Together: Military Couple Recovers from COVID-19, Donates Convalescent Plasma
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In this Together: Military Couple Recovers from COVID-19, Donates Convalescent Plasma

07/15/2020
By ASBP Communications

During the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a heavy amount of difficult news, but there are those who provide a ray of hope and inspiration to all on resiliency and community. In this case, COVID-19 convalescent plasma donors Trae King-Latimer and her husband Jerome Latimer, whose spirit of giving are examples of the generosity of service members (and spouses) and a reflection of the power of community and the military family.

COVID-19 convalescent plasma, or CCP, is being investigated for the treatment of COVID-19 because there is no approved treatment for the disease at this time. There is information that suggests CCP might help some patients recover from the disease.

When a person contracts a virus — here, SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease COVID-19 — their immune system creates antibodies to fight the virus. These antibodies are found in the person’s plasma, the liquid part of blood. Plasma with these infection-fighting antibodies is called “convalescent plasma.” Through the blood donation process, this plasma is collected from a fully recovered person and provided to a patient who is still fighting the virus.

A retired Air Force Chief Master Sgt. living in Virginia, 30-year veteran King-Latimer and her husband believe they contracted COVID-19 around March 16 — of all things, the couple’s one-year anniversary. It is thought the two became infected via Latimer’s place of work. A few individuals there had tested positive for COVID-19 and Latimer thinks he brought the virus home with him. After their symptoms started, they were officially diagnosed on April 9.

A native of Queens, New York, Latimer explains the symptoms he and his wife suffered. “We had every symptom except shortness of breath. We experienced body aches, chills, coughing, loss of smell, loss of taste, etcetera. We suffered all the major symptoms. The recovery lasted way too long for us, it was about 5-7 weeks total to fully recover from this.”

As she and her husband recovered, King-Latimer was keeping an eye out for COVID-19 in the news, learning more about the disease. That’s where she heard about CCP and wanted to know more. Serendipitously, around this time she received a call from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center about the CCP program to see if she would be willing to donate. Wanting to find out more, she called the number they provided for the Armed Services Blood Bank Center – National Capital Region and spoke with the blood donor recruiter, who provided more information and qualifications to donate convalescent plasma.

King-Latimer, who had given blood several times with the Armed Services Blood Program while in the Service, didn’t need to be asked twice. Latimer, a first-time donor, agreed to donate as well. The couple, having never donated via apheresis — or even what that process entailed — were ready to help. People were dying, even people King-Latimer knew. “We were going to donate no matter what the process was,” she stated.

Echoed Latimer, “The reason for donating was to help someone who may be suffering and in need of our donation. Our experience was real, it was alarming, especially since so many were passing away … we felt obligated to help others since we were blessed enough to recover.”

In an unprecedented time, family, neighbors, and the community rallied around them during their recovery. It made Cleveland native King-Latimer, a Booz Allen Hamilton employee working at the Pentagon in the Air Force Warfighter Integration Capability Office, recall her military days due to the warm treatment she received.

“We don’t live around the military community right now. When we had COVID-19 and were recovering, our neighbors and community were awesome and so helpful. It was like that military family feeling for us. So when we went to donate it was that feeling of family, community. When you think about donating for this program, think of it as donating for a family member. For your military family.”

When asked about the experience and why people should come out and donate, King-Latimer was emphatic. “Don’t be scared to do it. We didn’t know [fully what apheresis plasma donation was like]. Once we got there, the entire team was amazing! If you are worried or scared about it, think about how beneficial it is to those who need it. It [apheresis donation time] was about 45-60 minutes to help save someone, and that was well worth it.”

As one who has fully recovered from COVID-19 and now a successful CCP donor, King-Latimer said she would consider donating again. Her husband added, “I would tell anyone it’s a great way to give back, and that by doing so, you can possibly help save a life or two.” Latimer went on to praise the ASBP team, adding, “the experience was inspiring.”

Celebration is in order for this incredible couple on their one-year anniversary, full COVID-19 recovery, and incredible spirit of giving back by giving blood. For the community. For their military family.

Note: The Department of Defense is on a mission to collect up to 10,000 units of CCP by Sept. 30, 2020, and the ASBP invites all who fit the eligibility requirements to donate for those in the military who suffer from COVID-19. And as always, all blood donations are mission critical. Consider taking this time to come and give others a fighting chance.

About the Armed Services Blood Program

Since 1962, the Armed Services Blood Program has been the sole provider of blood for the United States military. The ASBP’s mission is to provide quality blood products and services for all worldwide customers in both peacetime and war. As a division of the Defense Health Agency’s Combat Support Directorate, we focus on equipping the warfighter with lifesaving blood and blood products needed on the battlefield as well as in military treatment facilities. Working as a joint operation, the ASBP collects, processes, stores, and distributes blood and blood products to service members, their families, retirees, and veterans around the world.

Since the ASBP’s inception, more than 1.5 million units of blood have been provided to treat battlefield illnesses and injuries. Blood and blood products are used for military patients of all ages for many reasons, and must be available at military hospitals for scheduled and emergency procedures. Each unit is critical to the mission. As one of four national blood collection organizations trusted to ensure the nation has a safe, potent blood supply, the ASBP works closely with our civilian counterparts in times of need.

To find out more about the ASBP or to schedule an appointment to donate, please visit https://www.militaryblood.dod.mil. To interact directly with ASBP staff members, see more photos, or get the latest news, follow @militaryblood on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, and @usmilitaryblood on Instagram.