Grant Kellenberger wanted to make sure his experience fighting the coronavirus would benefit others in his community.
The Mohnton teenager, like millions of others across the world, contracted the highly contagious COVID about two weeks before Thanksgiving. Although his symptoms were pretty mild and lasted just a few days, Grant knows that there are others who have not been so fortunate.
So when he was feeling better he decided he would do something to help by donating his plasma — the part of the blood that contains antibodies from those who have recovered from the virus.
The only problem was that he had to wait.
Pennsylvania requires that donors be at least 16 years old and have written permission from a guardian to donate blood. So he had to wait.
That wait ended on Saturday morning when he was finally able to fulfill his wish of helping others — three days after his 16th birthday.
"I thought this was a good way to help people in our community who might be in a dire situation," he said minutes before the donation was set to begin. "My mom mentioned to me that this is something we could do so I've been looking forward to it since we recovered."
Kristen Kellenberger, who suffered more severe COVID symptoms over a longer period of time than Grant, said she was very proud that her son wanted to donate and that she was extremely happy that they could do it together.
"I was proud when he told me he wanted to do this but not super surprised because he is a good kid," she said with a smile. "And we both know the importance this could have for someone who might be really sick."
Kristen said they reached out to the Miller-Keystone Blood Center in Bern Township a few weeks ago to figure out the process of donating their plasma to the cause. The staff at the center gave her the information they needed and made an appointment.
To mark the unusual donation, the staff at the center wanted to do something special. So they decided to throw Grant a birthday party to celebrate.
Balloons were tied to the lounge where Grant spent about 40 minutes having his blood drawn, and he was served a slice of birthday cake following the successful procedure.
"It didn't hurt at all," he said confidently. "There was a little pinch at the end and that was pretty much it. I'll definitely be back again."
Tamara West was happy to hear that.
As site manager of the center, she said the demand for convalescent plasma donations remains high as the country continues to see the second surge of COVID cases.
"The research shows that antibodies in these donations will boost the immunity of those who have severe infections," she said. "We've heard stories about people who only had hours to live getting the plasma and being sent home three days later. That's how helpful it can be."
West said those interesting in making a donation are asked to set up an appointment through their website GiveAPint.org.
"I would say if you know for sure that you had it and have a positive test, sign up to give convalescent plasma," she said. "Your donations could help four other people battling the coronavirus. You will be hero when you donate."