Salt Lake City, UT -- (ReleaseWire) -- 05/01/2020 --Just 13 days after receiving Utah's first convalescent plasma transfusion for treatment of COVID-19 at Intermountain Medical Center as part of a new national treatment protocol, Cynthia Lemus, 24, has been discharged from the hospital and is now home with her family.
Lemus' departure from an acute care unit at Intermountain Medical Center on Thursday was cheered on by a line of nurses, doctors, and other caregivers who worked tirelessly to help her beat the odds – and beat a virus that has claimed so many lives.
"It amazes me all that the nurses and doctors did for me," said Lemus, a flight attendant who was in critical condition and extremely ill for much of her hospital stay. "They called me a fighter, but they were the ones fighting for me."
A team of Intermountain Healthcare medical experts oversaw Lemus' plasma transfusion on April 17, as part of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's newly launched National Expanded Access Treatment Protocol, which allows the use of convalescent plasma donated by patients who have recovered from COVID-19 to be processed and given to patients with the virus.
While Intermountain clinicians are thrilled about Lemus' recovery, they are unable to attribute her improvement directly to the transfusion of convalescent plasma.
"Although we can't be sure, it's certainly possible that the plasma transfusion, in addition to the advanced supportive care that Cynthia received during her hospitalization, contributed to her recovery. But we can't make a direct correlation," said Brandon Webb, MD, chair of Intermountain Healthcare's COVID-19 Therapeutics team.
"Convalescent plasma is one of multiple investigative therapies that we have available for patients in hopes of not only helping them recover, but also learn which treatments are effective," he added.
Lemus's plasma donation came from the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, MN, where clinicians are serving as the lead investigators for the national convalescent plasma treatment protocol.
In the past two weeks, 11 additional Intermountain patients have now received plasma donations and two others have consented to receiving it.
Most people who have been infected with COVID-19 form antibodies several weeks after becoming infected. These antibodies are tailor-made by the immune system to fight the novel coronavirus and are an important way the body fights the disease. Antibodies are believed to work by neutralizing the virus.
While there is no guarantee that antibodies to this new virus actually provide immunity, scientists are hopeful that once someone produces antibodies to the coronavirus, those antibodies may offer some benefit to those fighting the infection.
The American Red Cross Utah-Nevada Region reports it has collected from nine convalescent plasma donors in Utah. Each donation can produce between two to three units that can be provided for multiple patients.
Intermountain is assessing and initiating plasma treatment for hospitalized patients at any of their hospitals state-wide on a case-by-case basis and based on level of severity of their illness and blood type.
Clinicians from Intermountain and the Red Cross Utah-Nevada Region are encouraging those who have recovered from COVID-19 to sign-up to donate plasma that might help others who are currently ill.
Lemus says she and her husband plan to donate once they are cleared to do so. They are encouraging others to do the same.
To register to donate send an email to COVID19Plasma@imail.org or visit RedCrossBlood.org/plasma4covid.
Note: Click here for b-roll of Lemus' departure from Intermountain Medical Center, or click here for high resolution photos.
Intermountain Healthcare is a not-for-profit system of 24 hospitals, 215 clinics, a Medical Group with 2,500 employed physicians and advanced practice clinicians, a health insurance company called SelectHealth, and other health services in Idaho, Utah, and Nevada. Intermountain is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes and sustainable costs. For more information, see intermountainhealthcare.org.