Source: Elizabethtown Lifestyle Magazine
As part of Hardin Memorial Health’s (HMH) ongoing efforts to offer the latest in cutting-edge care to its patients, the health- care system is conducting a new study that aims to find a break- through treatment for the COVID-19 virus. HMH physician Na- talie Harper, M.D., Ph.D., Hematology/Oncology, is leading the study locally, with assistance from Ben Cundiff, D.O., Pulmonary and Critical Care, and Gwen Godfrey, D.O., Pathology.
Harper described the treatment – which uses blood plas- ma from recovered COVID-19 patients to help patients recover more quickly – as promising. “The principle behind the convales- cent plasma program is that recovered patients have developed antibodies against the virus,” Harper said. “When plasma is tak- en from these patients and given to someone else who is acutely ill, the theory is that the antibodies can help that second patient more quickly fight the infection.”
Blood plasma is the liquid portion of blood. It serves sev- eral important functions, including helping to maintain blood pressure and volume, supplying proteins critical for blood clot- ting and immunity, carrying electrolytes to the body’s muscles, and maintaining a proper pH balance throughout the body. In a plasma-only donation, the liquid portion of the donor’s blood is separated from the cells. Blood is drawn from one arm and sent through a high-tech machine that collects the plasma. The do- nor’s red blood cells and platelets are then returned to the donor along with some saline. The process takes only a few minutes longer than donating whole blood.
In June, HMH enrolled nine COVID-19 patients in the study. Participation in experimental therapy is voluntary. Of the six pa- tients that received convalescent plasma infusions, five recov- ered from the disease. Recovered COVID-19 patients are eligible to donate plasma if they have been well for 14 days and meet the criteria for giving blood. Each person who donates plasma can help up to four patients currently battling the coronavirus.
“For this study to work, it is important that we have access to convalescent plasma,” Harper said. “We are thankful to the do- nors around the country who are making this possible for HMH patients, and we ask other recovered local COVID-19 patients to consider donating plasma.”
Results from HMH will be incorporated into a larger study by the renowned Mayo Clinic. There are more than 2,000 hospitals around the world participating. HMH President and CEO Dennis Johnson said this demonstrates HMH’s dedication to providing top-of-the-line care as well as the hiring the “best and brightest physicians.”
“Along with her medical degree, Dr. Harper earned a Ph.D. in Pharmacology, the branch of medicine concerned with the uses and effects of drugs with emphasis on research, so she is uniquely qualified to bring this kind of revolutionary treatment to HMH,” Johnson said. “Dr. Cundiff and Dr. Gwen Godfrey are also gifted leaders and ready to transform care at HMH. Baptist Health, the Red Cross, and Mayo Clinic collaboration are instru- mental in these efforts as well.”
Harper said this is an opportunity for the community to po- tentially help others in the fight against this virus. “Recovered COVID-19 patients right here in Hardin County have the oppor- tunity to be part of a landmark study to help us beat COVID-19,” Harper said. “This is a chance they may have to help their fellow Americans and make a real difference in people’s lives. Their par- ticipation could literally save lives.”