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Family says COVID-19 plasma trial may have saved Michigan man’s life

A patient in his 70s was struggling to survive COVID-19 until a doctor found an experimental treatment. The trial therapy is now being credited with getting the man on the road to recovery – and just maybe saving his life.

“Just a few days ago they were packing his body in ice trying to bring down a fever of 105 and so, like so many others, we were hoping and praying,” says Bobby McKenzie.

He’s the stepson of Rich Beckerson, who now appears to be on the road to recovery after receiving that experimental treatment for the coronavirus. McKenzie says his stepfather received a plasma donation at St. Joseph Mercy in Ann Arbor as part of the Mayo Clinic’s Convalescent Plasma Program.

“I’m not a medical professional but I can tell you that he got it late Saturday night around midnight and he got out of the ICU [Sunday]. So we’re talking about within 24 hours there was visible improvement,” McKenzie says.

The plasma donation was from a former COVID-19 patient who recovered.

The idea is that those who beat the bug likely have antibodies in their her blood that’s able to fight off COVID-19, and by giving that plasma to patients still struggling with the disease they too might be able to recover.

“In our urgent care centers, we have about total, to date, we have about 85 cases of COVID-19 positive cases. And a lot of them are healthy individuals, who are young and healthy, and got infected with the COVID virus and they actually healed and they recovered from it. So I actually told them to enroll into this registry that is created by American Red Cross,” says Dr. Mohammed Arsiwala, the president and medical director of Michigan Urgent Care.

Those eligible for the treatment must be hospitalized and have severe or life-threatening symptoms.

St. Joseph Mercy says they don’t know if this treatment will or won’t help people with COVID-19, or if it will have any harmful effects. But right now it’s one of the only treatments they have.

“One of the main limitations of plasma therapy is that it is incredibly time-consuming and robust to produce. You need people to have proven immunity in very high numbers,” says Dr. Adam Rosh, an emergency medicine physician.

“The more people that donate plasma, the more trial tests they can do to know with precision when plasma helps. Does it help early on? Is that best? Or also potentially help people who are on front lines, nurses and doctors who may be in contact. So the more folks who give plasma the better place that we will be in,” McKenzie says.

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