Gives Convalescent Plasma and Remdesivir Partial Credit
Don Wentroth celebrated Father’s Day and his 66th birthday this June, but like everything else in the year 2020, they weren’t the celebrations he had hoped for due to COVID-19.
He says it all started about a week before his birthday. He and his wife, Susan, were at their grandson’s T-Ball game. “We had our masks on and we were social distancing – until it started raining. That’s when everyone packed together like sardines to get out of the rain,” describes Wentroth. “That’s our best guess as to where it happened.”
Being in their sixties, the Wentroths had been vigilant about following the proper protocols in an attempt to avoid the illness. But despite their best efforts, they both became infected.
Susan was lucky. While unpleasant, her symptoms resembled those caused by common allergies. Don on the other hand, suffered something far more severe.
“I was shivering, had crazy aches and pains. I mean even my hair and skin hurt. I lost my sense of taste and I had a high fever for days.”
He readily admits that he should have sought medical treatment sooner than he did. “I’m never sick. I exercise every day. So I thought I could tough it out and get over it on my own. You know, typical man stuff,” he says.
But when his non-stop cough persisted and when it became more and more difficult to breathe, he finally went to the emergency room at INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center. He was admitted to the hospital on June 14 with classic COVID pneumonia. Susan wondered if she would ever see her husband again. “I wasn’t allowed to be with him in the hospital,” she remembers. “I got to Facetime with him some, but he couldn’t talk much because he was on oxygen and talking made his cough worse. I was pretty scared that he might not make it.”
Drs. Mark and Nancy Rolfe, a husband and wife team of physicians at INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center, were two of the physicians who took care of Wentroth. “When Mr. Wentroth came in, he was very sick,” says Nancy Rolfe, M.D. “We threw everything we had at him to avoid the need to put him on a ventilator. Thankfully, we were successful at that.”
Two of the therapies used on Wentroth were convalescent plasma and Remdesivir.
Convalescent plasma is an old therapy that dates back prior to the availability of antibiotics. In the 1880s, plasma was used to fight bacterial and viral infections in both humans and animals. It was used as therapy or prophylaxis for pertussis and scarlet fever. It was also used in the Great Influenza epidemic of 1917. More recently, convalescent plasma has been used to treat Ebola, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (another coronavirus infection) and influenzas such as H1N1, Avian Flu and H5N1.
“When COVID-19 emerged with no known therapies, it was the natural first response to turn to this old therapy again,” says Mark Rolfe, M.D. “Plasma from previously infected and recovered people has antibodies that will attack and ‘neutralize’ the virus. This process is known as passive immunity. Convalescent plasma from people who have been documented to have had the infection and recovered is donated by those people to be given to patients who are sick with the virus and less likely to recover.”
Remdesivir is an antiviral developed to fight the virus that caused Ebola. “Because COVID-19 and Ebola both use the same RNA replication process, Remdesivir has proven to be effective in early stages of the infection to prevent further replication of the virus,” continues Rolfe.
The combination of convalescent plasma and Remdesivir with steroids and supportive care are currently physicians’ best options for treating this virus. To date, INTEGRIS has treated more than 500 patients with convalescent plasma and nearly 350 with Remdesivir.
“At the time Mr. Wentroth received convalescent plasma and Remdesivir, the combination of these two therapies was only recently available at INTEGRIS. Knowing that this virus can rapidly evolve into a life-threatening illness, often in the matters of hours, these two therapies were quickly offered to Mr. Wentroth,” says Nancy Rolfe, M.D. Convalescent Plasma is a one-time infusion, where Remdesivir is given over a five-day period. “Mr. Wentroth responded as we had hoped and within a couple days was without a fever. He was off oxygen and back at home within seven days.”
Mark Rolfe adds, “To put that into perspective, the average person who contracted this virus before these therapies often spent weeks in the hospital and if they were unfortunate enough to require a ventilator to breath, they were often hospitalized six to eight weeks or more if they did not succumb to the infection or its many consequences before then.”
Wentroth is pretty much back to life as normal and is thankful for the care he received. “I can’t pinpoint one thing that saved my life,” says Wentroth. “But I do know without a doubt that Remdesivir and convalescent plasma were certainly contributing factors to me getting better. I wish I knew who donated the plasma I received. I would like to thank them for being a big part of my success.”
The Oklahoma Blood Institute (OBI) has an immediate need for convalescent plasma from donors who have recovered from COVID-19 to treat seriously ill patients. The need for convalescent plasma in our area has increased over 700-percent in recent weeks, with demand now regularly greater than collections. Available supplies have reached critical levels, and patients will face delays in this lifesaving care if donors cannot be recruited in higher numbers.
If you’ve recovered from COVID-19 or had a positive COVID-19 antibody test, please sign up today for Oklahoma’s registry by visiting bit.ly/covid19-registry-ok or calling 888-308-3924. Positive COVID-19 test results should be faxed to 405-278-3140 or emailed to email@example.com.