MIAMI — For Basil Binns II, 38, the trauma of COVID-19 struck early.
His 70-year-old mother who has a history of bronchitis was among the first to fall ill with the virus in his community after attending a ski vacation with friends in February. She was hospitalized for two weeks, but recovered.
Binns tested positive two days after. He quarantined at home, terrified that his wife, who was seven months pregnant at the time, would get sick. Fortunately, he remained healthy and his wife did not contract the virus.
Binns is one of more than 190,000 people in the Miami-Dade area who have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began. In Miami-Dade County, over 3,000 deaths have been reported, according to the Florida Department of Health.
The experience was harrowing, he said.
Binns said he was “concerned for my mother’s recovery, concerned for my wife and our daughter, concerned for my colleagues.”
The trauma of the pandemic has affected just about every part of the country, but has hit the Black community particularly hard: Cases and deaths have been twice as high among the black population than among other Americans, and hospitalizations have been more than four times as high, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Families have lost loved ones; grandparents, and their grandchildren; are required to be physically distant, and the lack of a vaccine has left many helpless. Amid so much individual, family and community-level trauma, finding ways to cope has been crucial.
For Binns, the answer came naturally, as it’s one he’s used throughout his life: Help someone else. Because Binns had survived COVID-19, his blood contained antibodies that could help others with the disease recover, a treatment called convalescent plasma donation.
Binns became a donor when a friend asked for help saving the life of a Haitian doctor who was clinging to life at a Palm Beach hospital.
The doctor, Vladimir Laroche, recovered after receiving the plasma donation.
Laroche “went from being completely non-responsive for a couple months, to coming out of his sickness,” said Binns.
‘Help out wherever you can’
Binns was born in a single-parent household in Buena Vista, a Miami neighborhood. His mother, who was an elementary school educator, started teaching when Basil was in the first grade, and to make things easier, Basil was enrolled in the same school.
One of the earliest lessons Binns’ mother shared with her son was to help others whenever possible.
“You do what’s right; you do the right thing no matter what… be respectful to your elders,” said Binns.
Having lived in what he considered as Little Haiti, much of the people in Binns’ neighborhood knew each other.“I think that was a lot of the interaction that I had growing up that helped to teach me about people, and circumstances, and conflict, and cooperation,” said Binns.
During Hurricane Andrew in 1992 when nearly everyone lost power, Binns’ home was the only one on the block with a gas stove, he said.
His mom “would cook these big pots, and cook these big meals… she would be like, ‘Hey take the food to your friends.’ Those were the things that I remembered: you help out wherever you can,” Binns said.
With the ongoing struggle that is COVID-19, this sense of community is needed now more than ever. Recently, Binns donated convalescent plasma a second time. It’s a small sacrifice, he said, in order to help someone else.
“At the end of the day the blood replenishes itself. I don’t even have to do anything. It’s one of the easiest ways that I could think of to be able to help someone,” he said.
Editor’s note: Khimmoy Hudson is a 12th grade student at Miami Lakes Educational Center in Miami. He was a participant in the Urban Health Media Project’s workshop “Surviving and Thriving Despite Trauma” held in fall 2020. The workshop was funded by The National Council for Behavioral Health (www.thenationalcouncil.org).