New York in March was a blast for Wollongong resident Max Borromeo - who took in Broadway shows, strolled through Central Park and dined out with his wife of 50 years Maria Victoria.
There was talk of coronavirus, Mr Borromeo said, yet little awareness at the time of the huge threat it posed, and certainly no social distancing or other measures in place.
On the day the 71-year-old returned to Wollongong, he was utterly exhausted, but put it down to jet lag. The following day though, with the onset of cold and flu symptoms, he decided to get tested for COVID-19 - as a precaution. Two days later, he was notified of a positive result.
"I had to self-isolate at home, disinfect everything I touched, wear a mask and use a separate bedroom and bathroom from my wife who luckily didn't get infected," Mr Borromeo said.
"As well as feeling exhausted, I had a slight fever, an itchy throat and no appetite. For four or five days I felt like I was floating, like a bit of a zombie.
"It affects your mindset too - you heard of people who were fairly well who then died, and I worried when I went to sleep, would I wake up in the middle of the night gasping for breath?
"But I tried hard to stay positive and after about two weeks started to feel better, and built up my strength from there."
Once recovered, his thoughts soon started to turn to others battling the virus. That's when he discovered that Australian Red Cross Lifeblood was calling on COVID survivors to donate convalescent plasma.
"It's people of my age who are the most vulnerable, and once I started to recover I thought I have to be thankful and I have to try and help others in the same situation - or worse," he said.
"We live in a society, and we have a responsibility to help others as part of that society. I was given the opportunity to exercise that responsibility by donating plasma, and I'll donate as much as I can, for as long as it's needed."
The father of five, and grandfather of 10, donated plasma for the seventh time at the Wollongong donor centre on Thursday.
He's one of five Illawarra residents who've recovered from COVID who are donating - and Lifeblood is urging other residents who've overcome the virus to roll up their sleeves.
Dr James Daley, Lifeblood medical director of pathology services, said the antibodies in their plasma was used to treat seriously ill patients as part of two clinical trials.
"Convalescent plasma is the liquid part of blood that contains antibodies," he said.
"When a patient recovers from COVID-19 their immune system forms antibodies that help them to clear the virus. It's thought that if we collect the plasma containing these antibodies, we can transfuse it to a patient who's currently battling COVID-19 and it will help them recover faster."
Lifeblood began collecting convalescent plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients for the first time in May this year. Since then, the organisation has collected more than 1375 convalescent plasma donations from 497 donors.
Those donations will be used in clinical trials open in multiple hospitals across Australia.
This includes the REMAP-CAP trial, which is an international trial with over 200 sites in 14 countries including over 60 sites in Australia. It's being led here by Monash University.
The Australasian COVID-19 trial (ASCOT) is an Australian and New Zealand trial that will be open in over 60 hospitals, and is being led by the Doherty Institute.
Lifeblood is particularly looking for males who have fully recovered from COVID-19 to donate their plasma, with studies suggesting male donors have higher levels of antibodies. This means their plasma may be more potent.
However women who have recovered from COVID-19 can still donate convalescent plasma. Their plasma will be used to make an immune product which may provide passive immunity against COVID-19 infections.
Dr Daley said donating plasma was a simple act, taking just 45 minutes, and was an opportunity for those who have battled COVID-19 to become part of a potential solution.
To donate, people must have had a lab confirmed case of COVID-19 and have been free and clear of any symptoms for 28 days. They also need to meet Lifeblood's existing blood donation criteria.
"The safety of our staff, donors and the recipients of our products is our number one priority," Dr Daley said. "The donors are fully recovered, their immune systems have cleared the virus and they're not infectious."
Meantime Lifeblood spokesperson Jemma Falkenmire said regular and new donors were also needed to donate blood and plasma to prevent a national shortage.
With cancellations increasing by 5000 nationally over the past three months, she urged more locals to fill appointments in the coming week to help boost stocks.
Call Lifeblood on 13 14 95 to make an appointment or discuss your eligibility.
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