There’s an old adage that goes: Change starts within you. Especially in 2020, this might mean quite literally as the nations deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. The war this time around is an invisible one, and anyone could be harmful. The reality of the dangers of this virus is enough to dishearten many who are fighting in the frontlines but every cloud has a silver lining. A hopeful news amidst the mourning graced the net in mid-July of 2020 as 4,000 former victims of the coronavirus joined the fight by donating blood plasma for research.
It has almost been a year since the COVID-19 shackled the world but the world is far from accepting the pandemic as its new reality. This is where the blood plasma research comes in. One of the amazing properties blood has to aid in healing is its ability to produce antibodies— proteins that help to get rid of microbes that cause disease to the body by destroying them or preventing them from infecting other cells. How are these antibodies made? They are made after the body encounters a novel microbe and immune cells from the blood then produce these antibodies that recognize that particular microbe. These antibodies are found in the blood plasma. No matter what the exact science might be, one thing remains true: the person has to be alive in order for the blood to do its job. This is why vaccines only work if the virus being administered is weak enough for the body to survive it. This is the challenge to the present coronavirus. Blood plasma for COVID treatment research is only valuable if it is from a patient who has fought and overcome the virus, a task that proves to be difficult as death rates increase. Even amongst survivors, not everyone is considered suitable for donation.
It is only a natural response to grow in appreciation for blood plasma donors especially since many are even willing to pay prices ranging from $350 to $40,000 dollars per milliliter of blood plasma. Despite the high demand, however, blood drives still are not overflowing with participants. At least, not until the members of Shincheonji Church expressed their intention to contribute.
Among the collateral damage of this virus is Shincheonji, a Christian church in South Korea. In February, the coronavirus entered the country and led to an outbreak at a branch church of Shincheonji located in Daegu. As community members found themselves face to face with the coronavirus, many gathered in panic to place the blame on Shincheonji, a conciliatory act that society has always done in an attempt to restore some semblance of order in an otherwise chaotic environment. The members of Shincheonji not only had to face health complications but were also subjected to marginalization and discrimination, both of which only made it even harder for members to seek medical attention. Despite this ill treatment, the victims of COVID-19 from Shincheonji lived— not just to tell the tale, but to tell the tale and help.
In July 2020, 500 members of the Shincheonji Church in Daegu who were unfortunately infected with COVID-19, began the willful initiative of donating their blood plasma. Collaboratively, they stated that “They wish to repay the grace of receiving the necessary treatment.” In August, the KCDC requested the help of Shincheonji once again with a donation en masse. The donation drive started from 9 a.m. on the 13th, as they got into three “blood donation buses” sponsored and initiated by the Korean Red Cross. The massive blood plasma donation drive of the members of the congregation remains continuous for a span of 5 days as a duration.
An official representative from Shincheonji Daegu Church explained with emphasis that: “We were infected by COVID-19, but gratefully, we were completely cured. To express our gratitude, the members of the congregation volunteered to donate their respective blood plasmas.” The plasma of the congregation members will be of great usage for the successful development of a hopeful COVID-19 blood treatment medicine.
The massive blood plasma donation drive achieved high acceleration after a letter of appreciation was written by Lee Man-Hee, the founder and head pastor of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus. On the 27th of the previous month, Lee sent an specially composed thank-you letter to the congregation and to its respective members of the church, who were successfully cured of COVID-19 and expressed their intention of donating their blood plasma for the development of a prospective treatment for the dreadful virus and disease.
Despite the voices that fail to recognize the contribution of these victims, the church of Shincheonji recognizes that the fight is not between people but between humanity and the virus that still remains today. The Shincheonji congregation might have had to go through the devastating symptoms of the virus, but every cloud has a silver lining, and Shincheonji’s ability to see the bright side and move forward to do what is good for the greater good might just be this silver lining that heals the world.