Local hospitals are testing out an experimental treatment in an effort to help its COVID-19 patients recover from infection.
Doctors at Aurora St. Luke's Hospital in Milwaukee administered the health system's first plasma transfusion to a coronavirus patient on Friday. Another local healthcare operator, Ascention Wisconsin, first utilized the method to treat a patient on Thursday.
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According to medical professionals, a plasma transfusion involves taking the antibodies from the bloodstream of a patient who has recovered and giving them to someone who is trying to fight off COVID-19.
Dr. Ajay Sahajpal leads up transplant surgery at Aurora Health and says the method has been around since the late 1800s, being used to help fight the Spanish Flu.
"The evidence is being somewhat encouraging that people do respond to this so in the absence of a vaccine and without a good treatment this the only real alternative we have," Sahajpal said.
He says his patient is stable and "doing well" after the procedure, and he will know in a few days if it has worked. He believes the best candidates for plasma transfusion are those who are hospitalized, but do not need a ventilator or intensive care.
Dr. Sahajpal says he's cautiously optimistic and wants to administer the the transfusions to other patients.
"The biggest barrier right now is there's not enough plasma, and so one of the the things I'd like to accomplish and encourage people who have been infected and have recovered, to please go to Versiti and American Red Cross and donate."
It's a message Jeff Kluever takes to heart. The 64-year-old from Oconomowoc got the virus on a trip to Austria last month. He's waiting on his test to come back negative so he can donate.
"Become a plasma donor to assist those who haven’t been as lucky, and I truly mean that as myself, in moving to the other side of the COVID-19 journey," Kluever said.
Kluever hopes others will do the same.
"It might be the last resort for them, their last chance," Kluever said.
If you are a COVID-19 survivor and would like to donate, head to Versiti Blood Center of Wisconsin. According to their website, you must have a negative test or be symptom free for 28 days.