What is your role, and how does it contribute to Takeda’s COVID-19 response?
I work at our plasma collection center in Wels, Austria as a supervisor, and I see my role as a link between the local team and management, such as our center manager, medical director, and the quality assurance team. As such, I played a critical role in the implementation of our COVID-19 safety measures. For example, we created new waiting zones in the reception area, implemented temperature checks upon entrance, installed plexiglass partitions, redistributed donation stations to be two meters apart, and increased personal protective equipment for employees. This was all so that we could continue our important work in the plasma collection center throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. It was and still is important to continue to raise awareness among employees and motivate them around the importance of our contributions during these unique times.
Why is your work so critical for patients?
As plasma cannot be produced synthetically, we are dependent on plasma donations from our donors. I worked as a registered nurse for years in an intensive care unit, so I have seen first-hand how critically ill patients, or patients with congenital immune deficiencies, rely on medications derived from donated plasma. We call on those who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate plasma; their plasma contains antibodies that can aid in the treatment of other COVID-19 patients.
What have you learned from the COVID-19 pandemic? How has it affected you and your family?
My knowledge of IT and digital tools have improved greatly because virtual meetings and training are now part of our daily lives. I also noticed that because the new COVID-19 environment requires a lot of flexibility, I’ve become more adaptive.
We made it through the first wave and are in our second wave right now. Thankfully, Austria has a stable healthcare system. My mom lives by herself in Vienna, so I decided to bring her to my home in Northern Austria during the first wave – this way, I could protect her from infection. During the lockdown period, we weren’t able to go shopping, go to the hair salon, or meet up with friends. We all experienced limitations, and after we successfully overcome this pandemic, we will all have more appreciation for how lucky we are.
What is your greatest challenge at the moment? How are you addressing it?
At the moment, covering the work schedule is a big challenge. Employees are in quarantine because their children's teachers are ill, and it can take up to 5 days for COVID test results to come in. The next hurdle is to keep the team motivated. All of us – myself included – are ‘COVID-fatigued’ because there is no end in sight. Another obstacle that challenges us in a good way is adapting quickly to the ‘new normal’ on a daily basis. Every day there are new guidelines and new findings that affect my work. To put it in the words of Heraclitus: "Change is the only constant in life."
What’s something positive you’ve experienced in this “new normal”?
A positive outcome of the entire situation is that, through increased awareness around plasma donation, donors have convinced relatives and friends to become donors.
Personally, I can say that I'm much happier with what I have. I now see many things from a different perspective. Even the restrictions regarding social distancing had a positive effect on me – at least for a short while. I have had lots of time for myself to do things which I haven't been able to do in a long time. Business trips were restricted, and meetings switched to WebEx and Microsoft Teams, saving time and money.