Ex-serviceman tops plasma donor chart after recovering from Covid-19

A Covid-19 survivor has bounced back to help other coronavirus victims by donating more plasma to a treatment trial than anyone else in England.

Stephen Franklin has donated convalescent plasma five times into a national treatment trial after recovering from coronavirus which saw his temperature hit almost 40C.

Blood plasma containing antibodies can be transfused into people who still have Covid-19, to potentially save lives.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Stephen Franklin, the first person in England to donate COVID-19 convalescent plasma five times (Edward Moss/NHSBT)</figcaption>
Stephen Franklin, the first person in England to donate COVID-19 convalescent plasma five times (Edward Moss/NHSBT)

Mr Franklin made his first donation in late April and his fifth donation on Monday at Birmingham Donor Centre.

The former army helicopter co-pilot and retired firefighter, who now teaches in a special needs school, was volunteering to look after key workers’ children when he contracted the virus in late March.

The 54-year-old, whose mother’s cousin died after contracting Covid-19, said: “My own illness came on in the blink of an eye.

“I felt really weird – light-headed and my lips started tingling – and I started to cough.

“I went home straight away and I was ill for 10 days. I had a cough and my temperature almost hit 40C.

“I had a weird thing where my skin became hypersensitive. It was like I was sunburned – I couldn’t put clothes on because it hurt.”

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Stephen Franklin pictured at the Birmingham Donor Centre (Edward Moss/NHSBT)</figcaption>
Stephen Franklin pictured at the Birmingham Donor Centre (Edward Moss/NHSBT)

Mr Franklin, from Hall Green, Birmingham, went on: “In April I saw something online which said they needed people to donate convalescent plasma, so I gave my details.

“I wanted to do something to help people and it’s nice just to be able to give something back. Donating is straightforward, no problem.

“I would hope that my donations will help make somebody better. It gives you a warm feeling to think you are helping someone.”

Expressing surprise that he is the first person to donate five times in England, he added: “It’s a nice feeling. I would say to anyone else: Please do it – it’s a fantastic thing to do.”

The donor plasma contains antibodies against the coronavirus which can be transfused into people who are struggling to develop their own immune response.

NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) is prioritising people with positive tests and men as they are more likely to have high enough antibody levels for the donation to be eligible for use in the trial.

Approximately 150 people have received transfusions so far.

Professor David Roberts, NHSBT associate director for blood donation, said: “Every offer to donate is incredibly valuable and we thank Steve for all he has done.

“We need to collect convalescent plasma now, to make sure plasma is readily available for the trial to treat people currently in hospital.

“Donations can also be frozen to ensure convalescent plasma is readily available, should there be a rise in infections in the coming weeks. We especially need male donors like Stephen as they generally have higher antibody levels.

“Please help the NHS fight Covid-19 by donating. You could save lives.”

Convalescent plasma is being collected at NHSBT’s 23 donor centres around the country, and several pop-up donor centres. Donation takes about 45 minutes.

Offers to donate can be made by calling 0300 123 23 23 or completing the webform at www.nhsbt.nhs.uk