UCLA exploring how blood plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients can help treat others

“I literally thought I was going to die.” Michelle Simonne recalls a nasty bout with what she thought was pneumonia back in early December 2019.

“It was four weeks of just the worst cough. I could only sleep like maybe one to two hours a night because I was coughing so much,” said Michelle Simonne.

The 51-year-old says she got sick after vacationing in the Caribbean.

“I was coming back and it was about 30 hours on a plane. So I came back December 2nd and literally that night I was sick.”

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Luckily, Michelle recovered. Fast forward to April when her neighbor who works for UCLA suggested she get tested for COVID-19 antibodies. That test came back positive.

“I was floored and it was so funny because I was trying to think back as to when I might’ve had the symptoms.”

The test was part of a clinical trial on how blood plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients can help treat others. UCLA Medical Director Dr. Melissa Ziman explains:

“That plasma contains antibodies that help that patient fight the infection and when transfused into a patient currently suffering from the infection can help them fight their infection,” said Dr. Ziman.

The treatment isn’t new. It was used to help fight the Spanish Flu more than 100 years ago and is currently being used in China.

“There is some preliminary case reports out of China that have shown that patients who have received convalescent plasma improved significantly and are taken off mechanical ventilation and discharged home,” said Dr. Ziman.

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Doctors say Michelle’s plasma could be used to help multiple COVID-19 patients, something she says she’s grateful for.

“This really felt like if I give my plasma I could maybe save some lives and that just felt really good and of course I’m going to do it I mean why wouldn’t you?” said Simonne.

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Researchers say, the program opened on Friday and already 850 people have signed up.

For more information on how to participate visit https://www.uclahealth.org/gotblood/default.cfm.