Uptown hospital successfully treats coronavirus patient with blood plasma from someone who recovered from the sickness

The patient, a Chicago man in his 40s, was discharged from Weiss Memorial Hospital in mid-April.

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Weiss Memorial Hospital

A coronavirus patient at Weiss Memorial Hospital was successfully treated with an investigational blood plasma treatment earlier this month.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times file

An Uptown hospital is among the first Chicago-area facilities to successfully treat a coronavirus patient using an investigational therapy involving plasma taken from someone who has recovered from the virus.

The patient was a Chicago man in his 40s who arrived at Weiss Memorial Hospital in “moderate to severe” condition and had not responded to other treatments, said Dr. Suzanne Pham, the hospital’s associate medical director. The patient, who had few other health issues, was close to having to be ventilated, Pham said.

“Within 24 hours of plasma infusion, [he] was able to be weaned down on his oxygen needs and was able to be discharged from the hospital within three days of that plasma infusion,” Pham said Wednesday. “So he recovered very quickly and nicely.”

The patient was discharged in mid-April, she said.

Pham said the recovery was a point of pride for a small community hospital, which has about 120 beds. On Wednesday, the hospital had about 70 coronavirus-positive patients and another 20 awaiting test results, Pham said.

The hospital was able to offer the treatment through a program led by the Minnesota-based Mayo Clinic, with the donor blood coming from the American Red Cross, Pham said. The treatment involves coronavirus patients being injected with aone-time dose of 200 milliliters of plasma.

“That plasma does have evidence of antibodies that potentially can attack the virus and hence, once transfused into a patient suffering from acute stages of illness, can help that patient recover more rapidly,” Pham said.

Three other Weiss coronavirus patients have been given the treatment, but Pham said it’s too early to say if the therapy will result in “significant benefits.”

“While convalescent plasma use remains investigational, we are cautiously optimistic that it will continue to show promise as a treatment option for our COVID-19 patients,” Pham said.

Several major local hospitals — including Rush University Medical Center and UChicago Medicine — are enrolled in trials involving the use of plasma treatment for the coronavirus. Spokespeople for each institution said Wednesday it’s too early to talk about possible success rates.

A spokeswoman for Northwestern Memorial Hospital said the hospital is also involved in a national study, but is still awaiting the availability of plasma before beginning treatment.

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