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Convalescent Plasma to Treat COVID-19

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — 24-year-old Hannah Jones doesn’t know if she would be here today without a convalescent plasma treatment. She spent weeks in the hospital on a ventilator battling COVID-19, but a plasma donation at Norton Healthcare turned everything around.

What You Need To Know
Convalescent plasma donations used as COVID-19 treatment in Kentucky

160 patients at Norton Healthcare receive donations

Doctor says results look promising

FDA issues emergency use authorization for treatment this week

“I was able to recover in, like, two days. It actually did its work, and I am very thankful for the person who gave it to me,” Jones said.

She was one of the first patients in the area to receive a plasma donation as part of a clinical trial that evaluates the use of convalescent plasma in critically ill COVID-19 patients. It’s a treatment that has been used for tens of thousands of patients, but it’s been limited only to qualifying patients at hospitals that are part of a clinical trial. That is, until the FDA issued an emergency use authorization for the treatment this week. 

Dr. Joseph Flynn from Norton Healthcare said that of the over 160 patients who have received plasma donations at Norton Healthcare since April, the results have been promising.

“If you can imagine, your body is attacking your own body. There is literally nothing you can do. I am setting the stage as to what we saw. Then, you have something that is actually reversing it and people walking out of the hospital. There is nothing that can come close to that feeling,” Dr. Flynn said.

He said the FDA’s emergency use authorization will open that treatment up to more people.

“Hopefully it will be able to impact deaths across the board, so that a physician in some health system or facility that may not have clinical research, may have access to this potentially life-saving treatment,” Flynn said.

Even though the FDA issued this emergency use authorization, Flynn said it is important to continue clinical trials to research whom it works for and when. He is the principal investigator for a new clinical study at Norton. It’s one of the first in the nation to study convalescent plasma as a therapy to prevent high-risk patients with COVID-19 from becoming seriously ill. The goal is to determine if the plasma can help prevent these individuals from becoming sicker and requiring treatment, like being placed on a ventilator.

“This is exciting because we’re trying to provide an early intervention to prevent progression of COVID-19,” Dr. Flynn said. “This has great implications for long-term care facilities and the many at-risk individuals who remain in a difficult position.”

The study is funded through a $50,000 grant from the Norton Healthcare Foundation. It is the first time that Norton Healthcare has been the origin of an FDA-approved, investigator-initiated clinical trial. 

As the use of convalescent plasma to treat COVID-19 patients expands, the need for donations will grow. Jones encourages everyone who is able to give to do so.

“I know those people in the hospital will be very thankful continuously,” Jones said.

If you had COVID-19 symptoms after March 4, 2020, and were exposed to someone who tested positive, you can volunteer as a plasma donor. Call (502) 446-2688. You can also donate through the Kentucky Blood Center or through the American Red Cross.

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