Elderly couple said COVID antibody treatment saved their lives

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — An elderly couple who contracted COVID-19 over the holidays said an antibody treatment called Bamlanivimab saved their lives.

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Suzette and Wayne Nasser are 74 years old and have underlying health issues. Suzette said, they did everything they could to stay safe and avoid getting the virus.

“We knew from the beginning that COVID may be a death warrant so we followed all the protocols,” she said.

Suzette said, she felt like she had a cold a few weeks before Christmas despite all their efforts.

“My head felt very heavy like I was coming down with a head cold. And it continued for a couple of days,” Suzette explained. “Then my husband started feeling bad a couple of days later. And about the same time he started feeling bad, I lost my sense of smell. And I knew immediately that we probably had (COVID).”

They feared the worst when they both tested positive.

Dr. Monica Price, Hawaii Pacific Health Medical Group Urgent Care Physician Division
chief at Straub Medical Center, suggested they get the Bamlanivimab antibody treatment.

“Bamlanivimab is a monoclonal antibody specifically targeting the COVID-19 virus. So this is a process that our body, once we get the COVID-19 infection, starts to produce these antibodies to help fight off the infection. So what this monoclonal antibody infusion, or medication, does is add more of those antibodies to a patient’s system to help them fight the virus a little bit more effectively,” Price explained.

The treatment was released in November, 2020, under an emergency use authorization. It is not yet FDA approved.

Patients need to have certain criteria to receive the treatment — age and underlying health issues are among them.

Price said, it is meant to help those who are at high risk for hospitalization with moderate symptoms get an early diagnosis.

She said, the entire process takes about three hours. Patients come in and get their vital signs taken first to make sure their oxygen levels and blood pressure are not too low before the medication is ordered from the pharmacy.

“This is a challenging drug because it has to be stored in extremely cold conditions. And then once the pharmacy gets that order, they’re able to remove it from that freezer, and then they’re able to mix that up. So that process can be about 45 minutes to an hour,” Price said.

“The infusion takes an hour or so…about 200 milliliters of the medication, mixed with normal saline will be infused.” Price said. “And then we actually monitor them for one hour post-infusion for any sort of reactions.”

She said, Hawaii Pacific Health has given 45 patients the infusion therapy since November.

“And all of them have been able to remain out of our emergency departments or have avoided hospitalization.” Price said. “That’s the whole idea, is that we are looking for patients that are higher risk that currently have mild to maybe even moderate symptoms within 10 days of the start of their symptoms so we can hit them early and keep them as well as possible.”

Price said, the staff continued to call in to check on them daily to make sure they were not having any adverse effects after they were released.

According to the Healthcare Association of Hawaii (HAH), the state has received 390 doses of Bamlanivimab and administered 145 doses to date. Six hospitals are administering the treatment across the state: Queen’s Medical Center, Straub Medical Center, Wilcox Medical Center (Kauai), Maui Memorial Medical Center, Hilo Medical Center and Kona Community Hospital.

In a statement, HAH President Hilton Raethel said:
“The Healthcare Association of Hawaii is working with its members to ensure that there is safe and equitable access to this treatment across the state, including the neighbor islands.”

Although the Nassers are still dealing a cough and decreased energy, Suzette said the treatment saved their lives

“With my husband’s medical history, he needed a miracle. And I believe that this treatment was the miracle for us,” she said.

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