Our stories: David Baker

David Baker plasma pic - COVID ZERO storyA research practitioner helping facilitate COVID-19 medical research trials at University Hospital Southampton is backing a campaign to wipe out transmission of the virus and help protect patients and staff.

David Baker usually works in the emergency, trauma and orthopaedics team but was redeployed at the start of the outbreak to work on multiple research trials. His job involved taking blood and other samples from scores of patients who were hospitalised.

The 54-year-old also fell ill with the virus himself but is now recovered, back at work and helping the sickest COVID patients in intensive care, after donating his plasma following a positive antibodies test.

UHS is one of a handful of hospitals in the UK where people who have recovered from coronavirus can give their plasma, which will then be transfused into patients who are poorly with the virus and struggling to develop their own immune response.

David is also supporting the COVID ZERO campaign launched by UHS, as it strives to bring back services and healthcare support at full strength and clear the backlog of patients needing treatment and operations.

The campaign has already received the backing of health leaders and hospital bosses across the county who signed an open letter urging the community to play their part reduce the risk of spread by walking apart, wearing a mask and regularly washing their hands.

David, a fit and healthy marathon-runner who works in research and development, was off sick for three weeks after contracting COVID-19 and spent much of that in bed.

He said: “My main symptoms were a fever, headaches and lethargy like I have never experienced before. I would manage to get out of bed for a couple of hours a day at the most, I had no energy at all.

“But I count myself lucky really as I never developed the continuous cough or any respiratory problems. I put that down to being quite fit and healthy – I am not overweight, I don’t drink or smoke and I run a few marathons every year and had ran one only a week before I was ill.”

David’s wife Alice, 40, who is a nurse at UHS, and his stepson, 11, also caught the virus.

He added: “We are now just over the 12-week mark and I am just about back to normal. It was hard at first as you would have good days and then there were days were you were exhausted. I have gradually got stronger and been able to get back on my bike and go for a run.”

David, who started working at UHS in 2007, added: “It’s not been much fun and I have seen this virus from both sides now – treating patients and being unwell myself.

“I have seen patients day to day on the wards, many of whom needed to be ventilated. Some recovered and made it home but there were others who sadly didn’t.

“That’s why I am backing the COVID ZERO campaign because it is for the benefit of everyone that we all do our bit to reduce the virus circulating and ensure there is no transmission in our hospital.”

As well as the general public, the 11,500 staff at UHS are also being urged to following the three simple steps of walking apart, wearing a mask when you can’t and washing your hands often.

Failure to do so could result in a second wave of COVID-19 cases that could overwhelm the NHS in the region, warned Derek Sandeman, chief medical officer at UHS.

He warned: The pandemic is still here, the virus is still in our community. It remains infectious and dangerous. It kills the young, the old, the healthy, the fit, those with ill-health and those in their prime. It takes decades of life from those who die, it can easily and rapidly return, threatening to overwhelm us.”

Mr Sandeman added: “We are in a good position, a place of relative safety. We must not confuse this with a mistaken view that this is over. Nothing has changed and a huge risk remains.”

What is a plasma donor and how can I donate?

Convalescent plasma is the antibody-rich plasma of people who have recovered from coronavirus. This can be transfused into people who are seriously ill with COVID-19 and struggling to develop their own immune response.

NHS Blood and Transplant is leading the collection programme on behalf of the Government for a major coronavirus treatment trial. The trials will investigate whether transfusions may improve a patient’s speed of recovery and chances of survival. If successful, the treatment could be rolled out for use in hospitals.

Donation takes about 45 minutes.  Your body usually replaces the plasma you’ve donated in 24-48 hours and you can get on with your normal day after donating. People can donate plasma as often as every two weeks.

Anyone who has had coronavirus or the symptoms can offer to donate at University Hospital Southampton’s donor centre by calling 0300 123 23 23 or completing the online form at www.nhsbt.nhs.uk

Potential donors are being prioritised so there may be a delay in responding to some people. People who became more ill with COVID-19 are more likely to have high antibody levels. For this reason, men, people who needed hospital treatment, people of middle age and over, and people from black and Asian communities, are priority potential donors.