Sewa Houston Volunteer Mans Phone Lines, Organizes Plasma Donations

By Lindsey Peyton

Houston: Lately, the helplines created to assist Houstonians during the pandemic have been ringing nonstop.

One number, created by the Houston chapter of the Hindu faith-based nonprofit Sewa International, provides disaster relief and family services for all, regardless of race, religion, nationality or background.

And callers are lucky when volunteer Madan Luthra is on the line. “Madan has just been phenomenal,” said Sewa’s executive director Kavita Tewary. “He’s a true volunteer.”

Luthra answers questions, delivers groceries, scours the city for needed supplies and has even helped with funeral arrangements.

When the call came for plasma – Luthra went into high gear. The long-time Missouri City resident spent 15 years working at MD Anderson in clinical pathology research. Before that, he was on faculty at Baylor College.

While Luthra retired three years ago, his interest in medicine and health remained. He and his wife, Raja Luthra, who works in MD Anderson’s molecular diagnostics lab, had discussed the possibility of convalescent plasma therapy, in which antibodies found in plasma from individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 is used to treat coronavirus patients.

After Houston Methodist began seeing success with this treatment, one of the men Luthra was helping was approved for the therapy. When Luthra found out, he started making calls to try to find a donor.

Luthra narrowed the pool down to an ideal donor.And doctors used the plasma right away to help the original patient Luthra knew, as well as a second patient — saving two patients’ lives in two days.

Luthra was convinced that more could be done, so he started working with Tewary and other volunteers to create a website that would connect plasma donors with patients.

“We had a sense that we could make a difference in the community,” Luthra said. “We could coordinate with the medical community and families in one project. Sewa could put all these things together and make a difference. The opportunity was there to do some good, and that’s what we’re here for.”

Now the website, is live. Already, there a few dozen donors on the roster, mainly from Texas, but the website has expanded to the rest of the United States as well.

The mission is to have the plasma on hand so doctors can treat patients. “That way, when the requests come, they can fulfill them right away,” Luthra said. “It will be easier to handle, because of the effort we’re making right now. We’re hoping it will make a big impact.”

The plasma registry will continue until a vaccine becomes readily available.

In the meantime, Luthra continues to make deliveries and to man the helpline. Tewary estimates he spends about 30 hours a week taking calls and responding to needs.

“I spend a lot of time to resolve situations, just doing whatever needs to be done,” Luthra said.

He shops, picks up groceries and leaves them outside of caller’s doors. Luthra said that his medical background prepared him for being safe and taking all of the necessary precautions.

“It’s definitely a scary spot,” he said, “but someone has to do the task. When no one else is there, we can step in like part of the family.”

Luthra often drives from his home in Sienna Plantation to Cypress or Magnolia to help others, Tewary said.

“It’s a lot of work and a lot of time,” she said. “His efforts in setting up the plasma registry is now helping families in Houston and around the country.”

How to help or get help: For non-medical COVID-19 help, call 281-909-7392.

To sign up for the Sewa plasma registry, go to — Houston Chronicle

To donate to Sewa’s relief efforts or learn more, visit

Lindsay Peyton is a Houston-bsaed freelance writer.