A Long Island man who wound up on a ventilator and nearly died from COVID-19 met the woman who donated the plasma that saved his life.
“I’m going to give you a hug,” plasma recipient Scott Cohen, 48, said to donor Abbie Park, 51, as they came face-to-face for the first time Tuesday outside of the New York Blood Center on the Upper East Side.
“I’m so happy to meet you,” Park, from Manhattan, said as they embraced.
Cohen and his father came down with the virus at the end of March and within a few days, they were both on ventilators, clinging to life, the Bellmore man told reporters Tuesday afternoon.
“There was not much left for them to do for me,” Cohen recalled.
“All the conventional treatments they had at the time had failed and I didn’t have a lot of time left.”
At the time, news about convalescent plasma therapy, and how it could help ailing COVID-19 patients, was just beginning to make headlines.
As doctors grappled with a mystery virus that was killing hundreds everyday, very few hospitals were offering it as a treatment because there was so much they didn’t know.
Cohen’s brothers asked the hospital if they could try the plasma treatment but they said they weren’t offering it, the dad of three recounted.
“Luckily my brothers are, as much as I love them, they are both very stubborn and would not take no for an answer because besides me being in the ICU on a ventilator, our father was in there,” Cohen said.
They started a petition online and posted it to the Survivor Corps Facebook group which, at the time, was like “the Tinder for plasma,” the group’s founder Diana Berrent told The Post.
“We were able to sort of break down the barrier and get it to [Cohen] and it saved his life,” the Long Island mom said.
Within 24 hours, the petition had 20,000 signatures and the hospital agreed to allow the plasma therapy “on an emergency basis” following the social media campaign, Cohen said.
“The hospital made it clear to us they approved my dad and brother for plasma treatment only because of the pressure from the social media campaign & petition. You all helped save my BROTHER’S LIFE. We are eternally grateful to you,” Cohen’s brother Michael Cohen wrote on the page on April 16, announcing that his brother had survived.
However, even with a social media campaign and a willing hospital, Cohen wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for Park’s “small act of kindness” in deciding to donate plasma in the first place, Berrent said.
Luckily for Cohen, Park was one of the first New Yorkers to test positive for COVID-19 on March 12 when there were just a few hundred cases in the Big Apple, she said. By the time Cohen was languishing on a ventilator, Park was recovered and her plasma was filled with antibodies.
“I feel happy that I can help,” Park told The Post.
“We can help each other and in this case it worked out wonderfully.”
Unfortunately, Park’s plasma was only enough for one person and Cohen’s father died before more plasma, or a more suitable treatment, came about.
“He had been resuscitated several times, was on dialysis and when we finally did get the plasma, they had to choose between him or I because there was only enough for one person,” Cohen recalled of the many tough decisions New York doctors faced at the height of the crisis.
Within 24 hours of receiving the plasma, Cohen was “sitting up, looking at an iPad” and FaceTiming with his wife and three children.
“You have the power in your arm to save another person’s life. One donation is roughly about an hour of your life and it can save up to three or four people and you can donate roughly every eight days, up to eight times in a year,” Cohen said between coughs, a lingering symptom he’s still battling nearly six months later.
“Take a second, do something selfless, get tested and go and save a life.”
Park apologized for the tragedy Cohen’s family faced in losing their father but said she’s “motivated to donate and keep donating” for the thousands of COVID-19 patients still out there who need help.
“I have a new friend, someone who really went out of their way for me without even knowing me,” Cohen said of Park.
“It’s emotional, it’s happy, it’s sad, it’s unfortunate that it took, you know, something so bad, as COVID to make something like this happen but at least some good comes out of things.”