San Antonio couple undergoes different COVID-19 experiences, uses plasma to help others

Couple donating plasma in hopes their antibodies will help someone else recover from COVID-19

San Antonio couple undergoes different COVID-19 experiences, uses plasma to help others

SAN ANTONIO – For 10 days in March, Richard and Imelda Lee toured the Holy Land with their church group, taking in the Sea of Galilee and Mount of Olives. When they returned home on a Saturday, they were exhausted.

“Tuesday, I was coughing more and more,” Richard Lee said. “And Thursday, we were contacted by our travel agent saying one person of our party had tested positive (for COVID-19).”

That explained Richard Lee's worsening cough, low-grade fever, and horrible body aches.

“My back between my shoulders down to the bottom of my back would cramp up to where I’d have to call (my wife) to have a massager machine go over my back or I couldn’t breathe," he said.

Richard Lee tested positive for COVID-19. Days later, so did his wife.

“I was surprised because I didn’t think I had it,” Imelda Lee said.

She felt no fever or body aches.

“My symptoms were more of the pollen, you know, the post-nasal drip,” she said. “The headaches, I attributed to the oak pollen.”

They had very different reactions to the same virus, though Richard Lee has a history with diabetes and bronchitis.

Imelda Lee had kept her distance and disinfected as best she could as she cared for her husband. But when testing was made available, she decided to see if she had been infected. Their young adult children tested negative despite being in and out of the house.

Once recovered, the Lees decided to use the bad for good. Already regular blood donors, they decided to donate their plasma so that their antibodies may help someone else recover.

“For me, it’s a form of healing,” Imelda Lee said.

As medical science continues to uncover more vital information about the new coronavirus, the Lees hope their plasma can contribute to research.

“Help someone now, and help everyone later,” Richard Lee said. “That’s the whole point.”

They plan to donate blood again on Sunday.

COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new virus, stands for coronavirus disease 2019. The disease first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China, but spread around the world in early 2020, causing the World Health Organization to declare a pandemic in March.

For more coronavirus coverage from KSAT, click here.

About the Authors:

As a consumer reporter, Marilyn is all about helping people stay safe and save a buck. Since coming to KSAT in 1985, she’s covered everything from crime to politics, winning awards for her coverage of the Mexican Mafia, Oklahoma tornadoes, children’s transplants, an investigation into voting irregularities and even a hit-and-run Santa Claus.

Luis Cienfuegos is a photographer at KSAT 12.