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COVID-19 treatment proving effective in Heartland patients

The goal of the outpatient infusion is to keep patients out of the hospital
Updated: Jan. 28, 2021 at 9:45 PM CST
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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) - Some patients are calling it a miracle drug.

New treatments continue to emerge to help COVID-19 patients get better quicker, and keep them out of the hospital.

One of them is called Bamlanivimab, and it has helped hundreds in the Heartland in the past couple of months.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization to permit the use of the unapproved treatment for mild to moderate coronavirus disease.

December 18, 2020 started off as a normal day for Wilma VanGennip of Leopold.

She did some housework and was making plans for an upcoming Christmas celebration with family.

It didn’t long for her to realize though, something was wrong.

“I sat down and suddenly I got so cold, my face was burning, my eyes were burning, I took my temperature...99, uh oh,” said Wilma VanGennip.

Worried about COVID-19, two days later Wilma went to confirm her suspicions.

“I tested positive,” said VanGennip.

Her fever shot up to 103, and she had no energy at all.

“You talk about lazy, I was lazy,” said VanGennip. “There was a nail file laying there on the floor, I didn’t pick it up for over a week.”

She can laugh about that now, but at the time, she was pretty worried when she was told there wasn’t much she could do.

“They said, take Tylenol and drink orange juice,” said VanGennip. “That felt like a death sentence to me because on the television all these old people are dying. I thought I was gonna go home and die.”

The good news for patients like Wilma, there is hope in the form of a relatively new treatment called, Bamlanivimab.

“We affectionately call it bam bam here,” said Dr. Stuart Greaser. “It’s quite a bit easier to say. We’ve treated a little over a 100 patients so far and have had some pretty good results with it.”

Dr. Stuart Greaser is an infectious disease pharmacy specialist at the Saint Francis Healthcare System in Cape Girardeau.

He explained how it works.

“It’s actually made from a patient who recovered from COVID 19, they found this particular antibody had a high level of neutralization,” said Dr. Greaser. “When it is infused in the body it binds to the virus, so the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and protects it from infecting other cells.”

It’s an infusion process, and it’s outpatient.

However, it is not for everyone as patients have to meet certain criteria.

“People have to be high risk to get the medicine,” said Lindsey Pohlman, Nurse Navigator at the Southeast Cancer Center in Cape Girardeau. “They need to be 65 or older, have COPD, diabetes, be immunocompromised, or be taking immunocompromising medication.”

The infusion takes about an hour, and then patients stay about another hour for staff to watch them and make sure they don’t have any negative reactions to the treatment.

Nurse Navigator Lindsey Pohlman said they have given the treatment to more than 73 patients at the Southeast Cancer Center so far.

“It mimics your immune system to help or prevent the COVID virus from attaching and replicating,” said Lindsey Pohlman. “It helps your immune system fight it off.”

Pohlman said they have had great results with the treatment, so far.

Wilma VanGennip will turn 90 in February.

She didn’t want anything getting in the way of that milestone.

She said after her infusion she immediately felt better.

“Next morning, oh my goodness it was all gone,” said VanGennip. “That was a miracle.”

“I cannot tell you how thrilled we are to have this for our community,” said Jennifer Ewert, Director of the Southeast Cancer Center. “Our staff has volunteered to work late to help with this to give those patients some hope.”

Ewert pointed out that the COVID patients are never around any of the cancer patients at the center.

“This is the one of the only treatments that we think is helpful in the outpatient management,” said Dr. Stuart Greaser.

Dr. Greaser said the hope is to keep patients from having to be admitted in the hospital.

“Being here in the hospital taking care of some of the sickest patients I’ve ever seen, having a tool available to help them from coming to the hospital has been a humbling experience to be able to help our community,” said Dr. Greaser.

Wilma VanGennip has this advice:

“Go to your doctor and ask for Bam, or Bam Bam. The word is too long you can’t say it, so just ask for Bam,” said VanGennip.

Doctors say the sooner you get the treatment, the better.

They need to administer it within 10 days from the onset of symptoms.

Contact your primary care provider to see if you qualify.

Click here for more information on the emergency use authorization by the FDA for Bamlanivimab.

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