Pa. Woman Becomes 1st American Red Cross Donor to Save 2 COVID-19 Patients

“It will really help a lot of people and in a trying time like this, we need to find the silver lining and bring some hope to others."

NBC Universal, Inc.

What to Know

  • After recovering from the novel coronavirus, Marisa Leuzzi, 31, donated her plasma to her aunt as well as a New Jersey man who were both critically ill from the disease.
  • Both patients recovered after receiving the donation.
  • Health experts are hoping the experimental treatment will save the lives of more people who are battling COVID-19.

A Chester County woman who recovered from the novel coronavirus stepped up to become America’s first Red Cross donor to give life-saving plasma to two critically ill COVID-19 patients, including her own family member. 

In March, Marisa Leuzzi, 31, of Downingtown, recovered from what doctors considered a mild case of the novel coronavirus. Her aunt, 63-year-old Renee Bannister, wasn’t so fortunate however. 

After testing positive for the virus, Bannister was placed on a ventilator in critical condition. That’s when Leuzzi decided to take part in an experimental treatment that doctors are hoping will prove to be the key to stopping the coronavirus. 

“I thought, ‘I have to do this.’ Not doing it wasn't an option for me,” Leuzzi said. 

Experts say those who have fully recovered from COVID-19 have antibodies in their plasma that can attack the virus. The discovery led to a nationwide effort to collect blood plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients to assist in treating those currently ill with the disease

With her aunt fighting for her life, Leuzzi became the first Red Cross donor in the country to take part in the treatment. 

“The night before she got the plasma, doctors called us and said they're giving her about 12 hours to live,” Leuzzi said. 

After Bannister received her niece’s plasma, her prognosis quickly improved. Yet it didn’t end with her. Leuzzi’s donated plasma also saved the life of a complete stranger; a 61-year-old man from Washington Township, New Jersey, who had been critically ill from COVID-19 before receiving the plasma. 

“Marisa saved two lives,” Leuzzi’s uncle, Greg Bannister, told NBC10. “Two. And always have hope. You can't give up.”

The FDA still considers the use of plasma as an experimental treatment. Yet with more cases of patients recovering after being a recipient, more and more donations are coming in. 

“We always come together to help in times of need,” Dr. Dan Borge, a Red Cross Medical Officer, told NBC10. “We had a great outpouring of people that were interested in helping to support this process.” 

Leuzzi said it was worth her time and energy to save a life. 

“It will really help a lot of people and in a trying time like this, we need to find the silver lining and bring some hope to others,” Leuzzi said. 

If you’ve recovered from COVID-19, are at least 17 years of age and in good health, then CLICK HERE to learn more about the donation process.

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