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Your Healthy Family: Anonymous donation means patients needing critical treatment can get care in Colorado Springs

Posted at 5:51 PM, Apr 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-23 11:58:19-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — Donna Bryant lives in Falcon and used to have to travel to the VA hospital in metro Denver to get needed plasma exchange treatments for her myasthenia gravis, a debilitating nueromuscular disease.

This new medical space at Memorial Hospital north in Colorado Springs was gifted to UCHealth by an anonymous donor.

Kristen Miller is Donna’s wife, and she says there were times when the trip was just too much.

“She would skip treatments because it might be too dangerous, because of the weather, roads or construction - you name it. She would miss treatment, and then she would suffer, the fatigue would build, and she wouldn't eat everything. It just was not good.”

When things were not good, Donna says she would exist in two places: “In the bed, or in my wheelchair, but I was in the bed three-quarters of the day because I couldn't get out.”

That all changed for Donna when the treatment became available in Colorado Springs, at UCHealth Memorial North.

In Donna’s case, her body creates antibodies that attack the nerve and muscle communication site.

Dr. Andrea Manhart, medical director of Outpatient Infusion and Apheresis for UCHealth’s southern region, explains that for Donna, the answer is to remove and replace her plasma. “She requires something called plasma exchange, and we just developed a new plasmapheresis suite here at UCHealth Memorial North Hospital, and it's the first in Colorado Springs, and it has helped her (Donna) tremendously.”

Peter Douglas is a registered nurse who has specialized in these types of treatments for nearly 20 years. Peter has gotten to know Donna and Kristen very well and also knows exactly how well Donna’s body tolerates this plasma exchange procedure.

Peter says, “We are primarily separating cells from the plasma, so we can remove the plasma. The whole blood is going down into a centrifuge, the plasma is separated out and goes into a waste bag. Then the machine takes a 5% albumin solution, which is a good plasma substitute, mixes it back in with the red blood cells, and then it’s warmed a little bit before it goes back to her through a return port.”

More frequent plasma exchanges, available closer to home, have made a world of difference for Donna - and for Kristen.

Donna says, “it has made a significant difference in many ways.” She is spending less time in her wheel chair, her energy is up and she hasn’t had to be admitted to the hospital to have treatment after falling into crisis because her symptoms had grown out of control.

In addition to being treated much closer to home – treatments can be hourslong - Kristen says there are so many other benefits. “She's alive and positive, and it's amazing to be able to see her function and be happy and healthy. It’s like winning the lottery”

In a future story, we’ll learn more about the other challenging diseases that can be treated in other ways, in this new to Colorado Springs, photopheresis suite.

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