A Woman’s Tireless Bid To Arrange Plasma For Critically Ill Patients

If any critically ill COVID-19 patient requires plasma, be it in Banke, or in any part of western Nepal, or even in the federal capital Kathmandu, the person everyone remembers is Madhawi Shah.

Shah, a resident of Nepalgunj Sub-Metropolitan City–12, has been arranging for plasma for patients in serious conditions since last year.

She does not complain and she does not take holidays and has so far managed to provide plasma to 186 patients, out of whom 150 have survived. Shah also does not charge a single rupee for her services stating that the satisfaction of saving lives is all she needs to keep working.

A school teacher by profession, Shah knows the pain COVID causes first hand. She contracted the disease last year and recovered only after 28 days.

Crediting her recovery to the support and encouragement provided by the then Chief District Officer of Banke Ram Bahadur Kurumbang, the district’s COVID-19 focal person Naresh Shrestha and chief of Bheri Hospital Dr. Prakash Thapa, Shah said that after her recovery, she felt she needed to help other infected individuals.

“A few weeks after my recovery, I heard of a person in need of plasma from a cured-COVID-19 patient for treatment. So, I went to the blood bank to donate but there I found out that a woman cannot give plasma after she has become a mother,” Shah said.

Although, she was not able to donate plasma, Chief District Officer Kurumbang and focal person Shrestha sought her help to collect swabs from people. This allowed her to keep a list of the infected and contact them for plasma donations when needed. “This is how things started,” Shah explained. “It was not easy to convince people at first.

Some claimed to be sick, some claimed that their families would not allow them and some avoided my calls altogether. But, I did not mind. I kept following up with them. Sometimes, I had to call people in the middle of the night.”

“Relatives call me in tears; they beg me to arrange plasma for their family member to save their life.” Shah is happy to be doing something to save people’s lives and help them recover.

Shah has provided plasma to patients in Banke, Dang, Dhangadhi, Bardiya, and also Kathmandu. She claims that just a few days ago she arranged plasma for former Prime Minister and senior UML leader Jhalanath Khanal too.

“But I don’t know if it was given to him or not.” Asked what should be done to make plasma donations easier and more effective, she recommended making the associated tests free again.

“In the past, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) and antibody tests that need to be done before plasma donations were free. But now the relatives of the patient have to pay for them,” she said.

With Nepal in the midst of a second COVID-19 wave, Shah is busy once again. She receives the list of infected individuals from the District COVID-19 Crisis Management Centre and contacts those who have recovered to donate plasma – all day, every day, 24/7, all out of the goodness of her heart.