Recovered Milwaukee COVID-19 patient meets convalescent plasma donor

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Unique Edwards, left, and Kris Klug meet for the first time Tuesday, October 13, 2020 at Versiti Blood Center of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, Wis. Edwards, who was critically ill with COVID-19, credits her recovery to the antibodies in the plasma she received from former COVID patient Klug. Edwards also works at the blood center. (Photo: Mark Hoffman / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

When Unique Edwards, 32, fell ill with COVID-19 in June, it started with minor symptoms. 

She drove herself to the hospital after she started having chest pains and difficulty breathing. The mother of three ended up being hospitalized for a week and a half.

Four months later, she met Kris Klug, the donor whose plasma was used by doctors to treat Edwards’ COVID-19 symptoms — and potentially save her life. 

Edwards was teary-eyed in the moments before meeting Klug during a Tuesday news conference at the Versiti Blood Center of Wisconsin. The two women embraced each other in a hug and Edwards — a Versiti employee — shared some of her experience fighting the virus. 

“I almost didn’t make it,” Edwards said.

“They let me know that it was the plasma that really helped … they were scared I was going to be the worst-case scenario for COVID,” Edwards said.  

While hospitalized at Froedtert Hospital with severe respiratory symptoms in late June, Edwards was not allowed visitors and could only see her family, including her three children — 4, 10 and 14 years old — via video chat. 

“They knew that COVID was something serious, so to hear that I had it they were very scared and afraid,” Edwards said, “but when speaking to me they tried to keep me encouraged as much as possible.” 

Before her COVID-19 diagnosis, Edwards had only ever been hospitalized when giving birth to her children. 

She said it took her about two months to fully recover and return to work.

Coronavirus cases in Wisconsin have been steadily rising in recent weeks. On Tuesday, the state reported 3,279 new cases and 34 deaths due to the virus — both measures the highest of the pandemic so far.

Doctors treated Edwards with convalescent plasma therapy, a treatment that uses the antibodies of someone who has had the infection and developed an immune response, said Versiti’s chief medical officer, Thomas Abshire. 

“There’s definitely an increase in need,” Abshire said. “There’s a need for more people who have had the infection to come out and donate.” 

Klug, who donated plasma for the fourth time Tuesday, never thought her donation recipient would be tracked down. 

“It feels good to know that these children have their mother,” Klug said.  

Unique Edwards is shown with her children. Earlier this year she was hospitalized with COVD-19. Edwards, who was critically ill with COVID-19, credits her recovery to the antibodies in the plasma she received from former COVID patient Kris Klug. (Photo: handout)

Klug contracted COVID-19 in May but had only mild symptoms and was able to stay at home. She encourages anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 to donate plasma if they can. 

“This will actually be a way for me to make sure that my children develop a lifestyle of giving and making sure that donation is something on that bucket list … donation will definitely be in that process of bringing up my children and reminding them what it did for me and what it could do for someone else,” Edwards said. 

Jessica Rodriguez is a Report for America corps reporter who focuses on news of value to underserved communities for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

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