He was mocked for having COVID-19, but Kerala man sets example by donating plasma

Fake messages about Ratheesh’s deceased parents along with other personal details were spread on WhatsApp groups.
Ratheesh Plasma
Ratheesh Plasma
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A day after donating his blood for plasma therapy — to be attempted on a COVID-19 patient— Ratheesh is in good spirits. The past few days, however, have not been kind to Ratheesh, who lives in Kerala’s Thrissur district. The Ollur native had contracted COVID-19 when he returned home from Chennai, and subsequently made a recovery. But in the interim, Ratheesh had been subjected to mental agony.

“I work in Chennai as a goldsmith. Towards mid-June, I came to my home state of Kerala, riding pillion with another man from Chennai. He didn’t have a travel pass but I did. We were stopped at the Walayar check post and I waited for the formalities for him to be over. But then he developed a fever and after checking his symptoms, was moved to the Palakkad Medical College. I was sent home for quarantine,” Ratheesh tells TNM.

It was while in quarantine that trouble began. Three days after he came home, the test result of the other man turned positive for the coronavirus. “The Health Department gave me a call, said that they need to take my swab for testing. Soon after that, I got a call from a television channel asking me which isolation ward I was in. I had not even got my test results then! Already, my details were out. I told them I am home and they said, ‘but that’s not the news we got’. I asked them to come and check my home, they have my address and phone number,” recounts Ratheesh.

A day before his test result came, a local ward member began calling him. 

“He went and put all the details about me — my name and my father’s included — on a WhatsApp group and I began to get random calls from strangers. By then, I had tested positive and was moved to the isolation ward of Thrissur Medical College. It became so distressing for me when news began to spread that I was seen at a supermarket or a mobile store. I had not even gone out to buy food during the time I was in quarantine at home, and had already made calls to arrange for someone to bring it home even before I reached,” says Ratheesh.

But the fake stories on WhatsApp kept coming. He says, “Someone wrote that my father is in quarantine, but both my parents are no more. Someone else said my wife and children were sent to their home when I am not even married!”

It didn’t stop even after he recovered and returned home. People still treated me with a certain stigma, Ratheesh says. “Even some of my friends seemed reluctant to see me, refusing to believe I have completely recovered. I hope at least the news of this plasma donation will bring out the truth. They only use the plasma of a recovered person,” Ratheesh says.

A doctor had called to ask Ratheesh if he was willing to donate his plasma to treat a critical young patient of COVID-19. Thrissur District Medical Officer (DMO) Dr Reena also spoke to Ratheesh, who was more than willing to help out another human being in distress.

Many experts have been looking at the possibilities of convalescent plasma therapy to treat COVID-19. The plasma taken from individuals who have recovered would contain antibodies which had formed against the coronavirus. Through the plasma therapy, these antibodies would be infused into the patients, and it is then expected to help the immune system in fighting the virus. In really sick persons, there would be a delay in the formation of these antibodies and therefore they can benefit from the treatment.

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