A Mandan couple that received plasma treatment for the coronavirus has now recovered. KX was there as the couple headed home.
“I’m just the happiest person ever that I could get out this hospital alive,” shared Betty Degreef, a coronavirus survivor. Betty, along with her husband, Gery were discharged after spending a total of 32 days in the hospital with COVID-19.
“There were truly times that we didn’t think we were going to leave,” shared Gery. Their condition was described by the medical staff as “touch and go” as they suffered high fever, chills and were both put on ventilators. But, as part of a new mayo clinic research medical trial, their symptoms subsided after being administered convalescent plasma.
“Within 24 hours of the plasma therapy both patients had the breath tubes removed and they made a miraculous recovery. We were able to go down on the ventilator, the oxygen and the amount of oxygen that they needed,” shared Kristen Renner, a registered nurse and the ICU Clinical Supervisor at CHI St. Alexius. The Degreefs are two of three patients who were the first in the state to be given plasma as a treatment for the coronavirus. The plasma is a liquid form of blood that comes from people who have been infected by the virus and recovered. The plasma they were given came all the way from New York.
“The plasma contains antibodies or proteins that recognize a pathogen, such as a virus or a bacteria,” shared the Chief Medical Officer, Lisa Laurent.
The couple received a standing ovation by the very medical team who supported them during their roller coaster hospital stay. CHI St. Alexius says they plan on continuing to treat COVID-19 patients with the convalescent plasma. Even though the Degreefs overcame their sickness thanks to the help of plasma, their doctor says it is not a for sure cure for the Coronavirus. They will continue to study the effects of it on patients.
Nikiya Carrero Reporting
Mandan couple, treated with plasma for coronavirus, recounts 32-day hospital stay
CHI St. Alexius Health staff pushed Gery and Betty DeGreef out through the hospital doors in wheelchairs Monday afternoon, marking their official release following a 32-day stay battling the new coronavirus.
“I’m just happy I’m still alive,” said Betty, whose condition improved after she received a plasma transfusion nine days earlier as part of a new clinical trial. Dozens of other hospital staff cheered and watched from a distance as the husband and wife, both wearing face masks and shirts that read “I survived COVID-19,” recounted the past few weeks to reporters.
“There were quite a few times we felt we weren’t going to leave here,” Gery said.
As part of their treatment, the Mandan residents both received convalescent plasma, a component of blood that came from recovered coronavirus patients in New York. Along with one other CHI St. Alexius patient, the husband and wife are the first people in western North Dakota to receive plasma under a nationwide clinical trial led by the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota to test its effectiveness in fighting COVID-19, the disease caused by the new virus. The DeGreefs tried to get tested for the virus well over a month ago, but they couldn't because testing supplies were in short supply. Gery, 58, said he had experienced body aches and a fever, and that the couple stayed at home, self-quarantining “for probably longer than we should have.”
“It was something I’d never felt before,” he said. “If there were tests available, we probably would have been in and out a lot sooner.” After their worsening symptoms forced them to be hospitalized, both were placed on ventilators during the course of their care.
“They were touch and go for a long period of time,” said Kristen Renner, clinical supervisor of the intensive care unit. Gery had already shown some signs of improvement by the time of the plasma transfusions. But Betty, 64, was still in poor condition. She spent three weeks total intubated with a ventilator helping her breathe.
“I only remember about five days being in there,” Betty said. The plasma they received contains antibodies to COVID-19 that potentially can help coronavirus patients fight the disease. Within 24 hours of receiving the plasma, “both of these patients took a turn for the better,” Renner said. Dr. Jan Levora, an intensivist at the hospital, said it made sense to give Gery the plasma as well despite his speedier recovery because “in some patients, there is another bout of the disease.”
He added that the other patient who received plasma remains hospitalized but is showing signs of recovery. It’s too soon yet to know for sure what impact plasma has in treating the virus, Levora said.
“We need to wait on the results of the study,” he said. “From three patients, it is too small a number to derive conclusions.” It’s also unclear whether the DeGreefs will experience any lasting health problems because of the virus, which can impact the function of a patient’s lungs even after they leave the hospital, he said. Gery, already, noted one obvious change.
“I’m 30 pounds lighter than when I went in there,” he said. The couple thanked the hospital staff for saving their lives, as well as their loved ones for their prayers. They look forward to spending time with their children and grandchildren. Gery said he advises anyone who thinks they might have the virus to find out for sure as soon as they can. “Get tested,” he said. “Time is of the essence.”
Amy Sisk Reporting
The Bismarck Tribune
COVID-19 patients discharged after plasma treatments
Two of the three CHI St. Alexius coronavirus patients who received plasma treatments were discharged Monday afternoon. It was a happy day for Mandan couple Gery and Betty Degreef.
The two were hospitalized for 32 days after testing positive for COVID-19. The pair were in critical condition, breathing with the help of ventilators until they underwent a plasma treatment as part of a clinical trial by Mayo Clinic.
"Their conditions were very, very serious. They were touch and go for a long period of time. It was the plasma. Within 24 hours these patients took a turn for the better," says CHI nurse Kristin Renner.
The plasma is taken from recovered COVID-19 patients and then used to help cultivate antibodies in current patients. The Degreef's have been discharged and reunited with their families.
Emmeline Ivy Reporting