GVSU grad student recovers from coronavirus, donates plasma to 'pay it forward'

Hannah Grinwis, graduate student in the Physician Assistant Studies program.
Hannah Grinwis, graduate student in the Physician Assistant Studies program.
Image Credit: Courtesy photo

A Grand Valley graduate student, who has recovered from COVID-19, said it's difficult to be studying health care and not be able to practice what she knows.

Hannah Grinwis, 25, is in her second year of Grand Valley's physician assistant studies program. Her clinical rotations were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. "It's hard to be sidelined during this health care phenomenon," she said. "My classmates and I are passionate about caring for others, so it is hard not being able to help patients in a feasible way right now.”

Grinwis was out of the classroom for several weeks and out of her clinical rotation for a couple weeks when she developed a dry cough and minor body aches in March, posing no threat to classmates or the campus community. Her symptoms began while she was home with her husband in Kent City. 

"I had a fever and pretty severe upper back and chest pain that worsened when breathing deeply," she said. "I also had a very severe headache, shortness of breath and fatigue. I lost my appetite and sense of smell and taste."

Grinwis said she was able to utilize telemedicine to communicate with health care workers and tested positive for COVID-19 at the Spectrum Health tent in Grand Rapids.

"I have no idea where I got this," she said. "We followed strict safety procedures during rotations and I had not been working with any patients who were possible COVID-19 patients."

Grinwis said her husband and sister developed symptoms but neither developed a fever or more severe symptoms. They followed guidance from the Kent County Health Department and Spectrum Health and were all able to recover at home.

Once she was feeling better, Grinwis said she started exploring ways to give back to "pay it forward." She decided to give plasma. In order to donate, she needed to be symptom-free for at least 14 days with a confirmatory swab that was negative. She received the "all clear" in April and now donates plasma once a week.

"It's important for me to give back to the community that has helped me," she said. "I grew up in West Michigan and I want to serve the people who helped me get to this point."

Grinwis earned a bachelor's degree in biology from Hope College and said she chose Grand Valley's PAS program because of its excellent reputation.

"When talking with providers, I heard extremely positive feedback about Grand Valley students and alumni. I knew this program would prepare me well to be a physician assistant someday," she said. "The faculty and my classmates go above and beyond to help and support one another throughout the rigorous demand of the program."