South Kingstown man donates blood to NYC researchers after recovering from coronavirus

A South Kingstown man who recovered from coronavirus has donated his blood to researchers in NYC to help those sick and vulnerable.

SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WLNE) – Kevin O’Neill of South Kingstown didn’t think when he left at the beginning of March on a business trip abroad, that he’d come home with coronavirus.

“I went from New York to London, to Frankfurt, Germany. Airplanes, airports, hotels… Who knows what it could have been. A sneeze, or, you know, picked it up on a tray table on an airplane, or a doorknob at the Munich airport hotel.”

The 55-year-old arrived home on March 11 and immediately started feeling symptoms.

“Everybody gets a headache occasionally, but this was a headache that lasted for an entire day. I started to feel kind of hot, hot and dry, not hot and clammy. My fever went up to 100.6, 100.7, and then this cough, this dry, top of the lungs cough started to come in,” O’Neill recounted.

Luckily, his symptoms were mild, and he felt better in a few days. O’Neill said doctors told him that likely means he has antibodies in his blood that fought off the virus and made him immune.

So, during his 14-day quarantine, O’Neill looked for ways that he could be of good use to researchers.

“I literally just started to do some research on who’s doing trials, what entities are looking for patients,” said O’Neill.

He found Rockefeller University in New York City was doing just that.

On Monday, he got in his car and hit the empty roads.

“I felt like I was a criminal. A, leaving the house, and B, leaving the state!”

When he arrived, the researchers were waiting for him and gave him a parking spot in front. A masked security guard met him at the door.

The entire process took just two hours, he said, and was similar to a regular blood donation.

“They’re looking for these neutralizing antibodies which they kind of describe as these powerhouse antibodies that the body creates after an acute infection. They’re gonna isolate those and then clone them.”

The antibodies the scientists are collecting from blood plasma will be used not only towards creating a vaccine, but to treat those who are sick and vulnerable, and those working on the front-lines to create immunity in their system too.

O’Neill said he’s just happy that he could make a difference.

“Driving out of the city that day on my way back to Rhode Island, I literally was kind of overflowing with gratitude for the opportunity to play a part, even a small part, in turning the tide here.”

For more details on the work the Rockefeller University experts are doing, click here.

© WLNE-TV 2020

Categories: Coronavirus, News