The Gift of Life

A Tribute to the Ultimate Blood Donor

In the wake of the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, medical scientists are contemplating the implementation of a tried-and-true, historically older technology – that of passive antibody therapy. This method of transfusing immediate immunity to people who are susceptible to a given disease has a history of implementation dating back to the 1890’s. In more recent history, this therapy was employed to stem outbreaks of poliomyelitis, measles, mumps, and influenza. Up until the 1940’s passive antibody therapy was the only means of treating many infectious diseases.1

The goal of this treatment is to infuse susceptible patients with an antibody serum prepared from blood donors having recovered from the disease of concern. The recipient then enjoys the benefits of nearly instant immunity imputed to them by way of this gracious donor. In treatment applications such as this, we can verily appreciate how the gift of blood donation truly is a gift of life, and are reminded of the marvel of blood itself.

Whole blood is a complex body fluid occupying about 8% of our body weight, and comprised of two main components: blood plasma and formed elements. Blood plasma is the portion that is very liquid (about 91.5% water) and contains dissolved proteins (clotting factors, albumins, antibodies), along with other nutrients, hormones, waste products and gases. Formed elements include red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.2

These very components are crucial in allowing blood to carry out its wide-ranging tasks: the transport of nutrients to cells; hormones from endocrine glands to receptors; oxygen from lungs to tissues and carbon dioxide waste from tissues back to lungs, and mounting innate and specific immunological responses. These varied functions of blood are leveraged in the practice of therapeutic transfusions. As an example in patients experiencing severe anemia due to a low count of red blood cells in their own blood – to the end they have difficulty breathing - a blood transfusion turns their ashen faces bright pink again.

More specifically to COVID-19, antibodies residing in the blood plasma portion of blood, responsible for vanquishing the virus in recovered individuals, are the coveted agents that are transfused to recipients. What the recipient receives are specialized weapons that can assist them in waging war against the virus, buying them time until their own immune systems can produce enough of their own antibodies. People often succumb to coronavirus (and other disease agents) because the virus outpaces their own immune system’s ability to arm up and launch an effective response: thus, a donation provides that “leg up,” and can mean the difference between life and death. One could even say it’s as if the recipient passes from certain death to life – thanks to that benevolent donor.

Since late March, several critically ill patients with COVID-19 at New York City and Houston hospitals have been treated with a promising technology then, stemming not from the research laboratories of a pharmaceutical company, rather from those blessed blood donors, having recovered from this pathogen, themselves.3

During this season of the coronavirus pandemic, and especially on this Good Friday, it is prime time to reflect on the significance of blood and of the supreme sacrifice of blood by God’s own Son, Jesus Christ. His donation rescued the whole of humanity from a syndrome much more pathological than that of COVID-19: sin and consequent death. The far-reaching pandemic of sin is not ameliorated with shelter-in-place mandates, anti-viral medications, or even pint donations of blood. As a pre-existing condition, it is not communicable, but rather congenital – something we all bear as descendants of Adam. And because sin’s consequences were so grave it demanded much more than a single pint from a random donor; it demanded all the blood and the very life of a perfect donor.

On this Good Friday as Christians and recipients of grace, having imputed to us the forgiveness of sins and an opportunity to live a life less marked by the pathology of sin, let us reflect and be humbly thankful for the ultimate gift of life, bestowed graciously on us by God’s own Son.

Notes:

1. Casadevall, A., & Pirofski, L. A. (2020). The convalescent sera option for containing COVID-19. The Journal of clinical investigation, 130(4).

2. Derrickson, B., & Tortora, G. J. (2007). Introduction to the human body: the essentials of anatomy and physiology. J. Wiley & Sons.

3. Retrieved from: https://www.sciencenews.org/article/coronavirus-covid-19-can-plasma-recovered-patients-treat-sick.

Emily has had a lifelong appreciation for science, teaching, and research. She graduated summa cum laude from California State University, Fresno with a BS degree in molecular biology and a minor in cognitive psychology. As an undergraduate, she conducted summer research in immunology, microbiology, behavioral and cognitive psychology, scanning tunneling microscopy and genetics; she also published research in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, and co-authored a chapter on scanning tunneling microscopy. She is currently completing a Master’s degree in Instructional Design and Technology at University of Cincinnati and a Certificate in Apologetics with the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University. Emily has had the joy of teaching high school chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, anatomy & physiology, and pre-engineering classes over the last thirteen years. As a former Darwinian evolutionist, Emily enjoys stating the case for intellectual agency, considering the arguments posited by the intelligent design movement as much more credible than those proffered by Darwinists.

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