How Virginia nurse who beat COVID-19 plans to help others battle virus

'I couldn't allow myself to go into a dark space'
Posted at 10:27 AM, Jun 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-02 10:32:28-04

GLEN ALLEN, Va. – A Glen Allen nurse who survived COVID-19 plans to donate her plasma and hopes others will do the same as the virus death toll continues to climb.

Although most people diagnosed with COVID-19 recover, more than 376,177 have died around the world, including 105,000 people in the U.S.

And in Virginia more than 1,400 deaths have been linked to COVID-19 as of June 2.

The seriousness of the virus is not lost on Charisse Hembrick, who has spent 20 years caring for patients.

“Being a nurse I’m thinking, ‘Is this really what I think it is?’” Hembrick recalled.

Hembrick said she experienced the worst COVID-19 symptoms in the first few days after contracting the virus, but that an outpouring of support from relatives, friends and her church kept her spirits lifted.

To beat it, Hembrick said she stood on her faith and stayed positive.

“I couldn't allow myself to go into a dark space because they were holding me up,” Hembrick said. “It was amazing.”

Hembrick knows she is blessed to have recovered, but worries about those who are still gravely ill. That is why she is signing up to donate plasma to support a huge nationwide campaign.

“They could be sitting at that 23rd hour and just praying for someone to show up so their loved one can be saved,” Hembrick said. “If it’s my plasma, I know they will be grateful.”

The FDA, Red Cross and hospital systems across the country are ramping up efforts to get COVID-19 patients who have recovered and are symptom free to donate convalescent plasma, which has antibodies that could potentially help current patients.

“Not everybody is eligible and that’s a key component here,” Jonathan McNamara with the American Red Cross said. “As our team will go through the eligibility criteria with everyone over the phone. That's why it's important for as many donors as possible to join us. Once it's determined that you're eligible, it takes roughly an hour to make that donation with the Red Cross.”

Hembrick is counting down the days until she can make her plasma donation on June 10. It is something she considers to be one of the greatest gifts she could ever give – and hopes others will do the same.

“Do not be embarrassed that you caught this virus. Don’t let that hinder you from being able to be a blessing to someone else,” Hembrick said. “We have something going through our veins that can potentially save the lives of others and if I can do it, and even more than once, I will. I encourage all to donate. That's the best thing you can do.”

If you have had the coronavirus and would like to learn more or donate click here or call the COVID-19 Plasma phone line at 833-582-1971.Click here to visit the American Red Cross website.

Depend on CBS 6 News and for the most complete coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 Precautions

Most patients with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms. However, in a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can lead to more severe illness, including death, particularly among those who are older or those who have chronic medical conditions.

COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person.

Virginia health officials urged the following precautions:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.Stay home when you are sick.
  • Avoid contact with sick people.Avoid non-essential travel.