First Seattle COVID patients treated with survivor plasma at Swedish

SEATTLE — Some seriously ill COVID-19 patients in Seattle are now getting plasma from survivors -- and doctors at Swedish Hospital say those patients are already showing signs of improvement.

All five major Swedish hospitals are ready to get convalescent plasma and treat patients. But much more study needs to be done to determine how effective the plasma is at fighting the virus.

The problem -- the amount of the special plasma available right now is still very limited. Bloodworks Northwest is urgently trying to ramp up collections. People can sign up by emailing COVID19Study@BloodworksNW.org or by calling 206-689-6689.

Coronavirus survivor Elizabeth Schneider was the first in Seattle donate her plasma at Bloodworks Northwest on Friday.

“You’re literally potentially saving a life,” Schneider said.

KIRO7 spoke with her last month after she recovered from the virus. Now she’s doing everything she can to help others – signing up in a variety of studies, and donating what’s called “convalescent plasma,” which has antibodies your immune system created to fight the virus.

“Happy to share quite literally my body and whatever biological information is in my blood with others, so we can learn and create a vaccine and therapy quickly,” Schneider said.

The century-old experimental treatment was used as early as the 1918 flu, and more recently, SARS and H1N1 patients.

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On Monday, the first two patients at Swedish Medical Center were treated with convalescent plasma. By Wednesday, they were up to about a half-dozen patients.

“It’s very, very exiting,” said Dr. Livia T. Hegerova, director of benign hematology at the Swedish Medical Center.

Hegerova said the two patients were on oxygen and declining, close to needing ventilators.

After getting this experimental treatment, they’re now showing good signs.

“It seems their course has stabilized -- they haven’t gotten worse so that’s really encouraging,” Hegerova said. “We are certainly optimistic that this will help patients recover,” she said.

She said the patients were also receiving other treatments so it’s difficult to isolate right now if it’s the plasma that helped the patients stabilize, but small studies in China have shown it can help people get better.

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Now there’s a nationwide Mayo Clinic clinical trial to treat seriously sick COVID-19 patients with survivor plasma -- and test its effectiveness.

More than 10,000 people across Washington have gotten sick with COVID-19 but so far, just 52 people have successfully donated at Bloodworks Northwest.

“The stop point at this point is really the amount of plasma -- the amount of donors,” Hegerova said.

In fact, Schneider said she’s been getting messages from people across the country asking for her help.

“I just feel so much for these people. You can just feel the desperation in these messages and I’ve responded to all of them but unfortunately in those particular cases I wasn’t a match for the blood type,” she said. “These cries for help – it’s just gut wrenching and really heart breaking, and it really motivates me to go in and donate plasma,” she said.

Swedish it is teaming up with Bloodworks Northwest to ask all the COVID-19 survivors in their network to donate plasma.

Schneider is also asking any survivor who can to help and plans to donate again on Friday. She said she will donate weekly for as long as possible.

Again – you can participate by contacting Bloodworks Northwest and emailing COVID19Study@BloodworksNW.org or by calling 206-689-6689.