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West Orange Times & Observer Monday, Apr. 13, 2020 5 months ago

Orlando Health infuses first Covid-19 patient with convalescent plasma

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Fifty-two-year-old Michael “Kevin” Rathel received the investigational therapy around midnight, April 8.

Doctors at Orlando Health Orlando Regional Medical Center infused their first COVID-19 patient with convalescent plasma Wednesday, April 8. Fifty-two-year-old Michael “Kevin” Rathel received the investigational therapy around midnight — 12 hours after compatible blood was donated.

“Normally, getting plasma requires going through a long process, because it’s investigational,” said Kevin’s physician, Dr. Satya Mukkera, critical care physician at Orlando Health ORMC. “In a normal timeline, this might take a few days. So working through the process in a few hours in phenomenal.”

The process to obtain and infuse convalescent plasma is complicated. Donors’ blood types must be compatible with recipients. Donors must have recovered from COVID-19, been symptom-free for a minimum of 14 days and be tested to ensure the virus is no longer active in the body. The hospital administering the treatment must receive approval from the FDA on a case-by-case basis. 

“This was like catching lightning in a bottle,” said Dr. George Ralls, vice president of quality and clinical transformation for Orlando Health. “The donor had the proper blood type to allow his plasma to be given to Kevin. Things lined up the way we could have hoped for.”

Orlando Health is urging individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate blood.

“This is something anyone who has recovered from COVID-19 should be aware of," Ralls said. "The goal is to have enough plasma in inventory, so we don’t have to rely on a one-to-one connection as we did in this case. We need to have an inventory of plasma that can be used for patients no matter where they are.”

Doctors say it’s too early to predict Rathel's prognosis.

“It usually takes a couple of days to see initial changes in lab parameters after giving plasma,” Mukkera said. “We’re hoping to see some positive changes in the next two to three days. The good news is his condition is not worsening, which is a positive sign.”

Individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 and are interested in donating blood, should contact their local blood bank.

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