For Theri Isaacs, the only thing worse than battling the coronavirus was watching her 72- year-old mother struggle with the disease.
With an immune system already weakened by leukemia, Gail Murray didn’t have the ability to fight the disease on her own. So to give Murray’s immune system the kickstart it needed, doctors at Ascension Sacred Heart Emerald Coast administered a promising treatment that took plasma from a donor who had recovered from the infection and infused her with the antibody-rich plasma.
The treatment, called convalescent plasma therapy, has been used to successfully treat other viral diseases, such as Ebola. Plasma is a part of blood that contains antibodies that help fight infection. Taking antibodies from people who had COVID-19 and transferring them into critically-ill patients is a way of boosting the immune system so it will attack the virus.
Murray’s son-in-law, Steve Isaacs, who had recovered from the virus weeks earlier, turned out to be a perfect plasma match for her. She received the treatment on a Sunday and two days later, she was fever-free for the first time in more than a month.
“We were relieved when she recovered so quickly after the treatment,” said Isaacs who lives in Santa Rosa Beach. “In a matter of days, she turned a corner. My husband’s plasma saved her.”
Isaacs also donated her plasma with the hopes that it can benefit people, like her mom, who are struggling with the virus. She urged people who have recovered from the virus to give the gift of life by donating their plasma. Each plasma donation can be used to treat up to three people.
“After witnessing my mom’s miraculous recovery, it was never a question of ‘should I’ donate my plasma, but “how do I,’” she said.
The treatment was recently approved for emergency use in certain hospitalized COVID-19 patients by the Food and Drug Administration. Both Ascension Sacred Heart Pensacola and Ascension Sacred Heart Emerald Coast are offering the treatment as part of a national research study.
Dr. Peter Jennings, chief medical officer at Ascension Sacred Heart Pensacola said: “We are thrilled with this success, but more research is needed to understand why some appear to benefit while others do not.”
If you have recovered from the coronavirus and are interested in donating your plasma, please visit OneBlood.org/plasma to review eligibility.