(originally published June 2020) Even in uncertain times, blood donors help Carter BloodCare meet the mission of saving lives by making transfusion possible – however this time through convalescent plasma donation.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently allowing emergency use of convalescent plasma in the battle against COVID-19. COVID convalescent plasma (CCP) provides antibodies from recovered patients and could help current patients’ immune systems fight the virus. Officer David Tilley, regular blood donor and hero in blue, is no stranger to serving his community – which is why it’s no surprise that he turned his recent COVID-19 diagnosis and recovery into a lifesaving moment for others.
Meet Officer David Tilley
Tilley serves as the public information officer for the Plano Police Department and has been with the department for 22 years. His allegiance to the city of Plano comes as no surprise, since his roots in the city reach as far back as the 1960s.
“My family moved to Plano back in 1961 before I was born,” said Tilley. “This is my home town and I’ve seen this community grow from about 5,000 people to what it is today.”
Not only did Tilley’s family reside in Plano but his father owned a consumer electronics business there as well. After taking over his father’s business for a number of years, Tilley decided to make a major career change and enter law enforcement. His only regret was not joining the force sooner.
“This profession allows me the opportunity to serve my community and make a positive difference in people’s lives.”
Journey to Blood Donation
Tilley’s career as an officer became his introduction to blood donation, as the Plano Police Department hosts a Battle of the Badges blood drive event, annually. However, it took him awhile to commit to donating, due to his fear of needles.
“I had bad experiences in the past where I got light headed or passed out, so it was something that I was always a bit terrified of,” said Tilley.
When Tilley was promoted to public information officer nine years ago, he had a new motivation for giving blood.
“When I moved into the public information officer position, I began to report to the Chief of Police and he was a part of Rotary,” said Tilley. ”Rotarians are a big part of the Battle of the Badges blood drives, so I felt an obligation to be a team player and set aside my fears.” Tilley has been successfully donating blood for nine years.
Blood donation seemed to be pretty straightforward for Tilley. You give blood, you save lives. However, blood donation took on a whole new meaning for Tilley in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On March 23, 2020, Tilley came down with his first symptom of illness and received a positive test for COVID-19 on March 25.
“I felt a little bit of fear and shock,” describes Tilley. “I had heard about the different symptoms people had experienced and the hospitalization and because I’m 57, I was concerned enough to take this serious.”
Tilley and his family immediately took safety precautions within their household to protect everyone.
“I tried to stay away from the kids as much as I could, my wife was the liaison between everyone,” said Tilley. “My wife also jumped into overdrive in sanitizing the house. Everywhere I went I had to wipe down.”
Tilley’s family’s social distancing and sanitizing methods proved successful since none of his other family members became infected and he tested negative for COVID-19 only a week and a half later after his diagnosis.
While Tilley had a fortunate outcome, he quickly realized that even people in his social circle did not have such luck. A friend of his wife had a Facebook friend whose husband was suffering from COVID-19 and was on a ventilator.
Convalescent Plasma Donation
“My wife’s friend called to ask if I could help the woman’s husband with a convalescent plasma donation since I had recovered,” said Tilley. “So my wife and I did some research on it.”
Tilley’s wife reached out to the wife of the hospitalized man and found out that he had already received a convalescent plasma donation. The results were shocking.
“My wife heard back from the woman later and she said that her husband had received a plasma donation and had been taken off the ventilator,” said Tilley. “He was on a breathing mask only and was expected to recover and be released from the hospital soon.”
Tilley describes the moment he heard this good news as a turning point for him. He knew he wanted to step up and donate on behalf of those struggling with the virus.
“My thought was ‘here’s a man on a ventilator and with the donation of this plasma immediately started recovering’, so that’s when I decided I was going to do it,” said Tilley.
Tilley reached out to Carter BloodCare to start the process of scheduling his plasma donation.
“The Carter BloodCare staff member I spoke with was very polite, informed me of the documentation I needed and provided me with my eligibility date,” said Tilley. “Once I was passed the 28-day eligibility mark, Carter BloodCare called and scheduled my donation.”
Still a little apprehensive to needles, Tilley didn’t know what to expect with a plasma donation. Luckily with the comforting words of his son, he was more confident in going forward with the donation process.
“My youngest son donated plasma before and told me it was pretty easy,” said Tilley. “He told me about the cooling sensation of the saline during plasma donation and said it felt kind of cool, so I was good to go!”
With the help of Carter BloodCare’s phlebotomist team, Tilley’s donation was seamless.
“Dusty was the name of my phlebotomist and she was great,” said Tilley. “I was anticipating the needle and before I knew it, she had it in my arm. I didn’t even know it. The whole time she was right there with me asking me how I was feeling, providing general small talk and we talked about the importance of blood donation. It was a perfect experience.”
Tilley agrees that even as a law enforcement officer, his plasma donation was some of the most important work he’s done.
“I consider myself very fortunate compared to others who are being hospitalized for COVID-19,” said Tilley. “So I use that bad experience as an opportunity to help someone that might be suffering from a more serious case than I had.”
Officer Tilley’s message to recovered COVID-19 patients: “We as recovering COVID-19 patients have a unique opportunity to donate plasma. Not everyone has this opportunity, so do it. It doesn’t cost you anything but time.”
Officer Tilley’s message to Carter BloodCare: “Keep up the good work. This is not just a regular job, this is an important job. Your services are invaluable to our society today.”