Difference Maker Is First Person To Test Positive for COVID-19, Becomes First to Help Save Lives

Susy Solis
June 05, 2020 - 10:28 am

    Related: See More KRLD Difference Makers

    When Father Robert Pace returned from a trip to a church conference in Kentucky, he felt sick and thought he had the flu. 

    His symptoms of coughing and shortness of breath continued to get worse, so he went to the emergency room. By that time, news that several people who had been at the church conference in Kentucky were testing positive for COVID-19. He informed his doctor and they immediately tested him for COVID-19. He was the first person to test positive for the coronavirus in Tarrant County. 

    Father Pace was admitted to the hospital. 

    "It was touch and go. My pneumonia was really bad and then they are saying things like, 'Your oxygen is going down and we're going to have to talk about a ventilator,'" said Father Pace. "And of course you're also in this isolation room. It was one of the most jarring experiences of my life. All I could do was turn to my faith and know that God was with me." 

    Luckily, Father Pace did not need a ventilator and was only in the hospital for 3 days, before he was sent home to quarantine for 2 weeks. Then he got a call from his doctor. 

    "Dr. John Burke, he called me and said that there was this FDA approved procedure using convalescent plasma and would I be willing to donate plasma? I said, 'Of course! What do I do?'" Father Pace said. 

    That plasma was needed for Jose Martinez. He had recently felt ill and was quarantined at home for two weeks. His symptoms continued to worsen until he was admitted to the hospital. Martinez was in the hospital for more than 3 weeks and put on a ventilator. The convalescent plasma treatment was doctor's last resort. 

    "Time was not on my side," Martinez said. 

    It was the plasma from Father Pace that saved his life. Martinez slowly began to recover. 

    "Dr. Burke called me again and said the person to whom I donated plasma wanted to meet me," said Father Pace. "I said, 'So, it worked?!" 

    Texas Health Resources set up the meeting. 

    "We were both in masks. Everyone there was in masks but I could see the smile in his eyes and I hope he could see mine," said Father Pace. "To see him healthy and happy, it was one of the most joyous experiences of my life." 

    "There were a lot of emotions. I was just so overwhelmed with joy and I just thanked him for the selfless act of donating plasma to save my life," Martinez said. 

    Martinez's family gave Father Pace a small statue of archangel Michael that Pace keeps close as a reminder of their newfound friendship. 

    We're proud to call Father Robert Pace this week's KRLD Difference Maker. 

    If you know someone who is making a difference in the community, send Susy an email at susy.solis@entercom.com