Peninsula police officer recovers from COVID-19, will donate plasma

A Burlingame Police Department officer, who survived coronavirus, is set to be among the first to donate blood plasma with COVID-19 antibodies to the Stanford Blood Center. It’s a donation that could help treat critically ill patients.

55-year-old Steve Vega had all the symptoms that included fever, chills, body aches, and a painful persistent cough.

“I knew something was wrong,” said Vega. “I thought it was just the flu or a cold and I shrugged it off.”

He had the symptoms in early March, the beginning stages of the pandemic. After a doctor's visit, he found out he had early pneumonia. He then tested for coronavirus and the results came back positive.

“I was scared, scared for me, my family” said Vega. “What’s going to happen to me? Am I going to be hospitalized? Am I going to be put on a ventilator? Is it going to get worse?”

In his 22 years on the force, nothing frightened him more than the unknown of COVID-19. He said his cop mentality kicked in.

“I told myself this is not going to beat me,” said Vega. “In my line of work, we have to learn to survive and those survival tactics came in to play.”

Officer Vega self-quarantined for 14 days, holed up in a room away from his wife and children. His immune system fought the virus and gradually he won the battle.

“I always say mind over matter,” said Vega. “If you have it, fight, fight, fight don't give up.”

Fully recovered, Officer Vega saw a need to help other patients.

“It is very different from a vaccine but the convalescent treatment program, although investigational, there are promising findings to show it can potentially work,” said Dr. Suchi Panday, Stanford Blood Center’s Chief Medical Officer.

The Stanford Blood Center is collecting blood plasma containing COVID-19 antibodies from recovered patients. The plasma will then be transfused to sick patients.

“I lived it, got through it and now it’s my turn to give back,” said Vega.

The school resource officer now on patrol loves helping people. He’s eager to sign up for the donation program.

“This is such an awful, awful thing but if I can help one individual or more it’s a wonderful feeling,” said Vega.

Officer Vega’s appointment is scheduled for Thursday.

Stanford Blood Center started its donation program last week. So far, the center’s supply has helped a few sick patients at various hospitals within the state and will be used in clinical trials in the coming weeks.

Click here for more information on Stanford Blood Center's Convalescent Plasma Donation Program.