Family advocates for plasma donations after father’s coronavirus-related death

60-year-old Marvin Lawton died of coronavirus before he could get plasma transfusion

A Central Florida family is speaking out after their loved one died from COVID-19 before he could get plasma treatment to help fight the virus.

“Easter Sunday was one of those days that he loves. It was a tough day for us because it was a day we’d normally be together as a family,” Matt Zeller said.

Zeller said it was the toughest day for his family as Marvin Lawton, his father, lost his battle with coronavirus at just 60 years old. The family said Marvin was a family man, heavily involved in church and loved to BBQ. Marvin’s wife said a part of her heart is now missing.

“I couldn’t go to him, I couldn’t touch him again. That has been one of the most unbearable feelings. I feel he had to go through this alone without us as a family being there with him. It’s unimaginable what this disease is doing,” Cecilia Lawton said.

Marvin’s wife, Cecilia, says they both fell ill and tested positive for the virus the first week of April. She says Marvin was admitted to Orlando Regional Medical Center and his condition worsened.

“It happened fast and it was surreal. We were able to text and then suddenly all of those things stopped, because he was on a ventilator and put under and we didn’t know if we were ever going to see him again,” she said.

[INTERACTIVE MAP: Here’s where to get your drive-thru coronavirus test]

After hearing about convalescent plasma therapy, she posted a video on Facebook pleading for donors to potentially help Marvin. She used the hashtag #Plasma4Marvin.

“We had over 1,000 shares and dozens of strangers reaching out, willing to donate and asking how they could help. It’s frustrating because they got stuck,” Zeller said.

There is a process to donating plasma. According to OneBlood, after a person recovers from COVID-19 , they must have a negative test 14 days after the symptoms have gone away or wait 28 days after a complete resolution of symptoms. Getting a secondary test is something Zeller says has been a problem for some potential donors.

"You kind of hit a wall because they can't get a second test because healthcare providers are running low on tests and constrained, and using tests for people who may be positive," said Zeller.

After hearing Zeller's concerns, News 6 reached out to the operators of the Orange County Convention Center testing site and the Mall of Millenia testing site. They said they will perform secondary tests for those who recovered from the virus and want to donate plasma.

For the Lawtons, it may have been too late for Marvin to get the plasma therapy, but they are advocating for plasma donations to help potentially save others fighting coronavirus.

“As soon as I get over this and test negative, I will get out and donate and will donate as many times as I can. It’s never going to stop for us,” Cecilia said.

The Lawton family wants local labs and hospitals to make secondary testing more accessible to people who have recovered from COVID-19 and want to donate plasma.

For more information on donating plasma, visit the OneBlood website: https://www.oneblood.org.

To keep up with the latest news on the pandemic, subscribe to News 6′s coronavirus newsletter or go to ClickOrlando.com/coronavirus.

About the Author: