The promising clinical trial being spearheaded by the Mayo Clinic is in its infancy stages and it's by no means a panacea, but it is giving COVID-19 victims and their families hope.
At Virtua Voorhees Hospital, two doctors were trying everything they could to save the lives of two of their patients but nothing seemed to be working.
"I mean I think we were just trying to help a desperate family," said Dr. Lukasz Polisiakiewicz of Virtua Voorhees.
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Renee Bannister, a 63-year-old school teacher, had been on a ventilator for three weeks with no sign of improvement. That's when her doctor decided to look into convalescent plasma therapy. The plasma comes from donors who recently recovered from COVID-19 and subsequently possessed protective antibodies. Fortunately, Renee's niece had recently recovered from a mild case of the virus and offered to be a donor.
"I brought it up to my uncle and said, 'Hey, don't know if this holds water but doesn't hurt to ask,'" said Marisa Leuzzi.
Bannister's doctor got FDA approval to take part in the Mayo Clinic trial using Leuzzi as a donor.
"The improvement started happening maybe 48 to 72 hours after the plasma transfusion," said Dr. Polisiakiewicz.
Andy Fei, 61, an opera singer, was also fighting for his life on a ventilator.
His sons were also looking into the plasma treatment.
"Since it is experimental, there is no literature, there are no tests, there's nothing to back it up to say that it actually works. The only thing we had was faith," said Eric.
Doctors say both patients are now off ventilators and making a remarkable recovery.
"We are now giving patients plasma under the umbrella program of the Mayo Clinic," said Dr. Polisiakiewicz.
Leuzzi is just glad she could help.
"In a weird way, I believe I was supposed to get COVID-19 to save my aunt," said Leuzzi.
Both patients are now in rehab and expect to be reunited with their families soon.
The Red Cross has now set up a bank where doctors in the trial can draw the plasma from. Others who have recovered from the virus are being asked to donate blood hoping to treat more patients with this promising therapy.
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