Nick Gifford, 52 from Scarcroft in Leeds, had been working as an airline captain for 13 years before the pandemic hit. He lost his job as flights were grounded across the world.
Nick, father of two, is now training to collect convalescent plasma as NHS Blood and Transplant urgently calls for more people who have had the coronavirus to donate convalescent plasma in Leeds.
NHSBT particularly need men who’ve had coronavirus to volunteer to donate plasma, whether they’ve had symptoms only or a positive test, because they generally have higher antibody levels.
“Losing my job was massive blow – your world gets thrown into chaos. But I dusted myself off and put my attention into something new,” Nick said.
“I tried my hand at all sorts: deliveries, Amazon driver, window cleaning and helping people overcome their fear of flying.
“I saw NHSBT were recruiting people to help collect blood plasma donations from recovered COVID patients. It seemed like a good opportunity to give back and feel like you’re making a difference.”
Nick was working for a Belgian airline in early 2020 when the pandemic put a stop to most air travel across the world.
“When I captained my first passenger flight it really was a dream come true. It’s something I had always longed to do since I was a child,” he said.
“There were lots of ‘pinch yourself’ moments, one minute you’re flying into New York, the next you’re witnessing the northern lights shimmering overhead whilst navigating across Iceland. It was an incredible time.”
Nick is currently training to become a donor carer at Leeds Bridle Path Donor Centre.
“I’m really enjoying it. There are plenty of new skills to learn, and the team is very friendly.
“You get chatting to all kinds of donors affected in different ways by the virus. People who barely had a cold, and some who were hospitalised. They’re all heroes in my eyes.”
More than 1,250 donations of COVID-19 convalescent plasma have been taken at donor centres in Yorkshire. Around 50 people have received plasma transfusions in hospitals across Yorkshire.
Professor David Roberts, NHSBT Associate Director for Blood Donation, and one of the plasma trial’s lead investigators, said: “We urgently need more convalescent plasma donations in Leeds, to help make sure plasma is readily available if we have a second wave.
“Leeds has seen an increase in positive cases in recent weeks. We urgently need as many people as possible who have recovered to donate, to help us make as much progress as possible now.”
“We especially need men who’ve had coronavirus to donate as they generally have higher antibody levels. You could save lives.”
COVID-19 convalescent plasma is being collected at NHSBT’s 23 donor centres around the country, including Leeds City Centre, Leeds Seacroft, Sheffield and Bradford.
Donation takes about 45 minutes. The whole visit – including the donation, snacks and checks – takes about 1 hour 15 minutes. Your body usually replaces the plasma you’ve donated in 24-48 hours. Your body also quickly replaces the donated antibodies. All donations are tested for COVID antibodies.
If you’ve had confirmed coronavirus or the symptoms, you can volunteer to donate plasma today at www.nhsbt.nhs.uk