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South London COVID-19 plasma recipient thanks her donor

A south London nurse has spoken to a patient whose life may have been saved because of him donating his blood plasma to vital research into COVID-19.

Kugan Kugathas, 47, a charge nurse for Epsom and St Helier Hospital University Hospitals NHS Trust, from Sutton in Greater London, donated his plasma at NHS Blood and Transplant’s Tooting Donor Centre in April, after recovering from the virus.

His antibody-rich plasma was used in May to treat Ann Kitchen, 63 from Lambeth, who was in intensive care with COVID-19 at St Thomas’ Hospital. She was the first person in England to receive convalescent plasma. Their Zoom meeting was broadcast on BBC Breakfast this week. Kugan spoke to Ann at home from the Tooting Donor Centre.

Ann told Kugan: “It's amazing to see your face. There are not words on earth to describe how I feel. You are my guardian angel."

She added: “I am so thankful to Kugan and everyone else who is donating plasma. It’s been lovely to speak to the man who might have helped save my life. I just wanted to say ‘thank you’ to him for what he did. Seeing the plasma, it was like liquid gold coming into me.”

Kugan said: “It’s been amazing to meet Ann because I might have helped save her life. I am happy to donate and do my part. If you can donate, it’s a way to help others. I would say to other people who’ve had coronavirus - go for it and donate. It’s easy and you could save a life.”

NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) is collaborating with more than 200 hospitals through the RECOVERY and REMAP-CAP trials. The trials will determine whether the antibody-rich blood plasma found in people who’ve had coronavirus - known as convalescent plasma - could be an effective treatment for general use in the NHS.

The plasma is transfused into patients who are struggling to develop their own immune response.

The antibodies could slow or stop the virus spreading, which could save lives. More male donors from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds are needed as their plasma is more likely to contain the higher levels of antibodies required.

Professor Dave Roberts, Associate Medical Director for Blood Donation at NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “We are so grateful to people like Kugan who have donated their plasma, but we urgently need more donors to come forward today. This will provide plasma for the trial and, if it works, help make it available for as many people as possible in the NHS as a treatment for COVID-19.”

Dr Manu Shankar-Hari, Consultant in Intensive Care Medicine at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Convalescent plasma is a promising treatment that could help patients whose bodies aren’t producing enough antibodies to curb COVID-19, and we need plasma for trials to help us to understand whether this treatment helps patients. We are incredibly grateful to all the people like Kugan who donate blood plasma, and to our patients, like Ann, who are taking part in COVID-19 trials.”

Anyone aged 18 years or over who has had COVID-19 can register to donate blood plasma. If you’ve had confirmed coronavirus or the symptoms, you can volunteer today to donate plasma online.