James Crocker had been without symptoms of COVID-19 for 21 days when he found out about Stacie Rathel's urgent plea for donated plasma for her husband hospitalized in critical condition with the virus. "My friend texted me a picture of Kevin with his family," Crocker told WKMG. "And the moment I saw that man with his family, it really grabbed my heart."
Crocker said he caught COVID-19 while attending a funeral for his nephew, but had since recovered, giving him the precious antibodies currently being tested for their potential to treat patients with more severe cases.
Meanwhile, Kevin Rathel had been down a far more serious path. For 18 days he fought for his life at Orlando Regional Medical Center. Much of that time was on a ventilator in a medically induced coma. He was so weak the nurses had to pry his eyes open for him.
"He was getting worse. And nothing was really helping," Stacie told Inside Edition. The 52-year-old father was given a 20% chance to live.
So Stacie took to Facebook to make an urgent plea for plasma from recovered donors, which she called "basically looking for a needle in a haystack."
"James said, 'I think you found your needle. I had it. and I've been asymptomatic for 21 days,'" Stacie said. Crocker then drove to Orlando to donate his plasma.
A few days later, Kevin was able to talk to his wife and he was later discharged from the hospital. Friends and neighbors cheered his arrival home, along with a very special surprise guest: the man who may have saved his life.
They celebrated at a barbecue honoring their new unbreakable bond. "We're definitely blood brothers now," Crocker told Inside Edition.
Crocker has since launched a website to help connect those who need plasma with COVID-19 antibodies with potential donors.