Fully recovered from COVID-19, South Kingstown man donates blood to NY scientists

Coronavirus

Courtesy: Kevin O’Neill

SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Kevin O’Neill is hopeful that the cure to COVID-19 is in his blood.

The 55-year-old South Kingstown resident tested positive for the virus in March after returning from a business trip to Europe.

While in quarantine, he said he repeatedly asked himself, “How can I help?”

“There’s a lot of feeling of powerless-ness right now, that we’re not really on our game, and I would argue that’s not necessarily the case, we actually have extraordinary power here,” O’Neill said.

O’Neill said after searching online, he found a study being conducted by Rockefeller University in New York. The study asked anyone who tested positive for the virus to donate their blood.

The study is looking at the antibodies of people who have recovered from COVID-19. Researchers explained to O’Neill that his blood could help scientists create a vaccine for the virus, and it could also possibly help them find treatments for those who are currently fighting it.

That’s when he said he decided to make the trip. After making a full recovery, O’Neill hopped in his car and drove to New York.

Thankfully, he said, the roads were nearly empty, making the journey rather quick.

“I was there for two hours, they were fantastic, the people there are just incredibly committed to this fight, and then I had this amazing drive back where for the first time I felt like I was contributing to the war effort,” O’Neill explained. “I’ve been riding on that cloud since then, so it’s actually quite a good feeling to be part of that.”

O’Neill likened his blood donation to a small gesture during a big battle.

“You know, for a little bit of time here, my blood is going to be a little bit more valuable, so we can get out there and we can donate, we can participate in these studies,” he said. “They are around, so there is an opportunity to make a difference here. That’s why I’m optimistic that brighter days are ahead for us.”

While O’Neill said what was discovered in his blood was not revealed to him, the university explains more about what they are looking at on its website.

“One strategy being aggressively pursued is the use of antibodies from the plasma of patients who have recovered from COVID-19,” the university said. “A rapid application of this approach is to simply collect the blood plasma from recovered patients and administer it to sick and vulnerable people.”

The university said that studies on such treatments have already been announced by the New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

“Rockefeller scientists, along with collaborators from local and national biomedical research centers and the New York Blood Center, are recruiting healthy volunteers who have recovered from COVID-19 in order to extract and process the plasma,” the university said.

Eyewitness News reached out to Rockefeller University but has yet to hear back, but the institution’s website says they’re looking for 500 people to participate in the study. Interested? Sign up here »

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