For many years, KJ Feder has been rolling up her sleeves to donate blood. South Texas Blood & Tissue Center (STBTC) often calls on KJ to donate platelets because of her rare blood type found only in 4% of the population. In fact, STBTC considers Type AB+ blood to be like “liquid gold” because of its platelet-rich plasma that can be used universally to provide plasma to all blood types. Her plasma’s yellow-gold appearance fits its valuable life-saving characteristics.
Today, with empathy and compassion also running through her veins, KJ is making even more of an impact donating convalescent plasma as a COVID-19 survivor. The plasma has antibodies and is known to provide passive immunity to certain patients with severe forms of the illness.
When the pandemic began impacting our community, KJ, who lives by herself, stayed mostly at home and limited face-to-face interaction with friends and family. “I didn’t touch another person for 3 months,” said KJ. After that realization, she decided to create a small bubble or social circle of those she was closest to, including her sister, Lynn, and boyfriend, Al.
KJ, Interim VP of Community Engagement & Corporate Responsibility, felt relatively safe since her team at CPS Energy was set-up to work remotely at home. However, that wasn’t possible for her boyfriend, who works at a factory. In mid-November, Lynn came to visit her two weeks before Thanksgiving. During Lynn’s visit, Al, tested positive for COVID-19 after spending time with the sisters. Lynn and KJ tested positive soon after.
“It was like my worst nightmare come true because I didn’t know what was going to happen,” she said. “I didn’t know how sick I would get.”
For the next two weeks, KJ battled through the common symptoms – chills, fever, body aches and loss of her sense of taste and smell. Fortunately, she had a strong support system of friends and family. Friends dropped off groceries on her porch and recommended a physician who provided a list of supplements she used to alleviate symptoms. Lynn and KJ’s mom dropped off Thanksgiving dinner on the front porch. Most of all, KJ was thankful she wasn’t alone. Her sister provided the personal support she needed to get through the worst part of the illness.
“There are a lot of people that get COVID who have family they live with, but I don’t,” said KJ. “One of my fears was that I would get sick and be alone. God works in mysterious ways because I was not alone one moment!”
KJ is very thankful she, Lynn and Al didn’t spend a single day in the hospital. She has known other friends who were hospitalized or lost loved ones to the deadly virus. While she has mostly recovered and no longer is testing positive for COVID, KJ continues to struggle with some lingering symptoms. Her sense of taste and smell is off some days. If she exercises for more than 45 minutes, she gets a sharp, burning pain in her back and has to rest and wait for it to go away.
“It feels like someone is taking a hot poker and sticking it into my lungs,” she said. “It’s not like bronchitis or pneumonia, but it’s like a pain in my back.”
As she continues to fully recover, she is using this reminder to persevere and potentially save others battling COVID with her plasma donations.
“I remember telling myself, well, if I survive this, at least I can give back and help other people survive,” said KJ. “I thought maybe more people could get my plasma since I have a universal blood type.”
A single dose of convalescent plasma (200 milliliters or about 8 ounces) treats one person. A donor can typically give 3-4 doses per session, benefitting as many people.
Join KJ! Show your heart for the community
As we approach Valentine’s Day, KJ is leading her Corporate Responsibility team to recruit employees to give blood this week. It’s one of many ways CPS Energy is putting People First to support customers and their loved ones during this challenging time when there continues to be great need for blood and plasma donations. More than 60% of STBTC’s blood drives have been canceled due to COVID-19, creating a blood shortage for trauma centers and hospitals that desperately need blood to treat patients. KJ says giving blood is one of the best ways you can support others during the pandemic.
“There are still people who need blood donations who have leukemia, get in a car accident or have some other type of trauma,” said KJ. “Donations are still very much needed to save lives.”
Will you join us and show some love for the community? Click here to sign up to give blood at a donor room near you. For your health and safety, appointments are required. STBTC staff follow strict CDC guidelines and follow all recommended health and safety measures to protect donors from exposure to COVID-19. If you’ve fought through COVID and would like to join KJ, click here to schedule an appointment to donate convalescent plasma.
Your donation could make a huge impact in someone’s life. Just imagine, every time you donate blood you can benefit up to three patients in our community, including cancer and transplant patients, newborns, moms and others who depend on it.