COLORADO SPRINGS — Last week we told you that UCHealth started to use an experimental antibody therapy for high-risk COVID patients to try and keep them out of the hospital. In this story, we're hearing from someone who has been on the front lines of administering this treatment.
When we talk about the impact that the current spike in COVID-19 cases is having in every department in the hospital, that includes the outpatient infusion clinic at UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central, where many high-risk patients have come for needed treatments such as chemotherapy.
Casey Peat, an RN and the outpatient infusion clinic manager, explains: “Many of our patients are worried about getting COVID. In some cases, patients are delaying treatment, so I see a lot of worry. I absolutely don't see as much impact as the intensive care unit, but our patients still talk about those fears.”
The infusion clinic is also responsible for treating high-risk people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and who have qualified for a new experimental anti-body drug called bamlanivimab. For safety reasons, these patients are treated in a separate area of the hospital than patients needing transfusions for conditions such as cancer.
Casey says, “We hang the medication in an IV and it takes an hour to infuse. Once the medication is done we monitor the patient for one hour for any side effects, and then the patient is able to go home. In total, we anticipate patients being with us for about 3 hours (for bamlanivimab treatments).”
Being able to dispense bamlanivimab is one thing giving Casey new hope in the fight against COVID. “It feels great that we are able to administer this drug that, in the small research study, has shown to keep people out of the hospital. One less person in the hospital frees up one more bed for someone else who had a heart attack or something that is not a planned event.”
Diane Clancy of Castle Rock received an infusion of bamlanivimab on the Friday after Thanksgiving Day at the encouragement of her son, who lives in Atlanta. “I was a little hesitant at first, but my son did a lot of research – and said to me, ‘Mom, you need to do it.’
Clancy became infected with COVID-19 after being exposed to the virus by a grandchild. “I just started to feel terrible on Wednesday and Thanksgiving,” she said, recounting she had a bad headache, slight fever and sinus pain. An X-ray taken during an emergency department visit to UCHealth Highlands Ranch Hospital revealed she had pneumonia in one lung.
Medical providers entered her in the bamlanivimab database. At age 79, she also has asthma, so she qualified to potentially receive the treatment. “Then the nurse came back and said, ‘you know you are very fortunate. I think you really should go ahead and follow through.’” The next day, Clancy was able to receive the infusion at Memorial Hospital Central and is grateful, saying she could be in the hospital now had her symptoms worsened. “I couldn’t have asked for better care. Today I feel wonderful.”
By potentially keeping high-risk patients like Diane out of the hospital, Casey knows she is helping lighten the patient load for doctors and nurses on COVID-19 units. She says she also sees firsthand the hope and gratitude from the lucky few who qualify for this treatment right now. “All of the patients who received it have been so grateful. They are saying thank you during the entire treatment that we could treat them, and they are so thankful for this opportunity to receive this medication.”
As Casey looks forward to things eventually returning to normal, she wants everyone to know it’s not just people who don't work in a medical setting who are tired of wearing masks. “One thing that I really miss is seeing patients smile; I really really miss that. As a nurse, being able to walk up and see a patient smile is big. Seeing them smile through the mask just isn’t the same.”
If you test positive for COVID-19 and have a pre-existing condition that you think puts you at high risk of being hospitalized, Casey says, “Please contact your primary care provider to talk with them about this medication. Your doctor can talk to you about if you qualify, and what the side effects could be so that you are well-educated before receiving the drug. Your provider can then log onto the website and see if you might be selected in the random allocation and then our infusion clinic would be contacted with that order and call you if you qualify.”
As of today Memorial Hospital has treated eight patients with bamlanivimab.
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