By Helen Brooks, Red Cross volunteer
Sometimes through tears, Yesenia Miranda Meza, a Red Cross employee in the Red Cross Serving San Gabriel Pomona Valley Chapter, tells the story of her father contracting COVID-19 and then receiving convalescent plasma leading to his full recovery.
Her story begins with her father, Jesus Miranda, a hard–working 68–year–old and a dedicated family man. Jesus always worked hard to care for his family, but the roles were reversed when he contracted COVID-19 in late December and had to turn to them for care.
Just a few days before Christmas 2020, Jesus started to feel unwell. He had a fever that increased dramatically in just a few hours. Yesenia managed it, but then he started to show other symptoms, such as vomiting and diarrhea, that looked worryingly like the hallmarks of COVID-19.
Everything changed when the virus took a turn and the color drained from his face.
“It was as if the virus was taking his strength away,” Yesenia said.
Her 95-year-old grandmother called from Jalisco, Mexico. She had a premonition, she said on the call, that Yesenia’s father, Jesus, was going to pass away.
“You have got to get him to a hospital,” she said.
Jesus did not want to go to the hospital at first, but Yesenia convinced him to go to the emergency room after a friend told him “You don’t want to have your daughter watch you die.”
Despite the seriousness of his illness, they walked out of the emergency room 13 hours later with an inhaler and cough drops. Yesenia was upset by the experience, because they did not seem to be taking his case seriously.
When her father’s breathing became labored, she called 9–1–1 and EMTs transported him to the closest hospital in an ambulance. They spent another two hours in the hospital waiting room, but she felt better because her father seemed to be in good hands. The EMT kept her abreast of what was going on with her father as they waited.
The EMTs tried to wean Jesus off his oxygen tank, but at that point, he took a turn for the worse and was quickly admitted. Hospital staff tried several treatments before settling on convalescent plasma. At this point, Jesus was poised to spend New Year’s Eve alone in the hospital and convalescent plasma was a last-ditch effort before intubation.
Before leaving for the hospital, he had told Yesenia where to find all his important documents in the event he did not return. As she left the hospital, it felt like a stab through her heart realizing this might be the last time she would see her father alive.
But through the grace of God, Yesenia said, who she believed was working alongside hospital staff, Jesus started his road to recovery just two days later. Divine intervention and convalescent plasma had carried him through.
Yesenia watched with relief as her dad got better and stronger with each passing day. She and her extended family had been on an emotional roller coaster ride filled with uncertainty since his symptoms began. She tries not to think too much about how differently this story could have ended (and how it did end for more than 500,000 Americans, 2.6 million worldwide). Fortunately, her dad was given a second chance.
As her father recovered, formerly a quiet, soft-spoken man, has started to open more, and Yesenia said the near-death experience changed him. Yesenia changed, too, as the experience highlighted what is truly important.
“Having a grandmother, a father, a mother still here with you,” she said gives her the strength to help her own family and others as well.
Yesenia was so grateful to the convalescent plasma donor, who saved her father’s life; she wanted to find out who they were so she could thank them personally. Due to confidentiality, she wasn’t afforded that opportunity, but she did learn that the plasma came from the Red Cross Blood Donation Center in Pomona.
In gratitude for the donation that saved his life, Jesus plans on donating blood as soon as he is cleared to do so, hoping that his plasma can we be used to treat others.
Talking to Yesenia reminded me of that the people who make up the Red Cross never cease to amaze me. Red Crossers are so driven in their quest and mission to help others in need.
Yesenia is a mother of three children, aged 24, 16, and 11. Not only does she work for the Red Cross, she also runs her own nonprofit, Pomona United for Stable Housing (PUSH). The organization works to prevent homelessness and addresses the many issues related to the housing crisis.
The Red Cross is lucky to have such a caring employee, who dedicates herself to helping others at work and strives to do that in her personal life as well.