Patient saved from COVID-19: Plasma therapy

Patient saved from COVID-19: Plasma therapy

CEBU, Philippines —  A 68-year-old COVID-19 patient who has been in the hospital for 13 days is set to return home after recovering from the disease, thanks to a treatment procedure performed successfully at the Cebu Doctors Hospital.

Dr. Potenciano Larazzabal III, president and chairman of the board of the Cebu Doctors Group of Hospitals, described the “Hybrid Therapeutic Plasma Exchange and Convalescent Plasma Therapy,” the first in the country, as “a bright side” in ongoing pandemic.

“It’s a very good day, a bright shining day because of the case we have now. We are in a pandemic… it is a bright side of what’s happening,” Larazzabal said yesterday. 

“And this patient, which will be presented later now will be discharged in how many days, 15 days, 14 days, 13 days. So, it’s really a miracle,” Larrazabal also pointed out in a statement.

The treatment was carried out by Dr. Edgar Tan, cardiologist; Dr. Maria Isabel Mahinay, hematologist; and Dr. Geraldine Lim, pulmonologist, and Dr. Mitzi Chua, infectious disease specialist.

Photo plasma exchange involves removing the plasma of the patient and replacing it with ordinary fresh frozen plasma(ffp) followed by convalescent plasma from a patient who had recovered from COVID-19.

Simply put, Mahinay explained, convalescent plasma therapy is the process of transfusing plasma from a recovered COVID-19 patient to a sick COVID-19 patient to transfer antibodies to the bloodstream of the sick patient.

Plasmapheresis involves removal of plasma from the body by withdrawing blood, separating it into plasma and cells, and transfusing the cells back into the bloodstream through a machine. 

Lim said the patient, Anne Clavano Cruz, had severe pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome that she had to be intubated and sedated.

Survival rate for severe patients being intubated is only 20 percent, according to IATF chief implementer, Secretary Carlito Galvez.

With Larazzabal’s go signal and consent from Cruz’ family, the team carried out the process.

“I expected her to be in ventilator for two weeks, but when they told me that she had been extubated a little over a week, I was very surprised and hopeful that with this treatment that they done, we start treating our patients in COVID with this therapy,” Lim said.

Key Factor

“Luckily, we are able enough to pull her through within six days since the start of the therapy,” Tan said.

But a key factor in the success of the procedure are the convalescence plasma donors that came forward with the help of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas (OPAV).

The donors are personnel of the Philippine National Police who have recovered from the disease.


Tan said that the procedure is not a miracle cure as they still have one successful case, at least for now.

“This is not a miracle cure, as this is only one case, but at least, this is a step to the right direction with good evidence and good output, and we need to replicate and, hopefully, we can make this a standard of care until vaccines come in the way,” Tan said.

Donors needed

Another patient is set to undergo such treatment but a Type B COVID-19 positive survivor is needed for the plasma.

Larrazabal called on patients who have recovered to donate plasma to help save lives. All they have to do is proceed to the Cebu Doctors blood bank for screening and for possible donation.

President Rodrigo Duterte has since called on patients who have recovered who have developed antibodies to donate their plasma to treat COVID-19 patients.

OPAV Secretary Michael Dino has also initiated a plasma donation campaign in cooperation with the three urban cities – Cebu City, Mandaue City, and Lapu-Lapu.

The Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center has agreed to be the depository of donated plasma.

Larrazabal said Cebu Doctors Hospital is willing to share its technology, the plasmapheresis machine.

“In this pandemic situation, team work ang kinahanglan (team work is what’s needed). It’s a team work approach to this COVID-19 crisis we are facing,” Larrazabal said.

Cruz is the 26th patient of Cebu Doctors Hospital who recovered from COVID-19 but the first to undergo the treatment.  JMO (FREEMAN)


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