Critically ill with COVID-19, 24-year-old recovers after convalescent plasma treatment

Two days after the convalescent plasma infusion she was out of intensive care and on the road to recovery.

With COVID-19 weakening her body, Hannah Jones, 24, was at risk of a heart attack. She was placed on a ventilator so she could breathe. It was very possible she would die.

Two days after getting an infusion of plasma donated by a COVID-19 survivor, she was out of intensive care and on the road to recovery.

Hannah credits the plasma and prayers for her COVID-19 survival.

Convalescent blood plasma, which can contain a COVID-19 survivor’s antibodies, is an experimental therapy reserved for patients critically ill with COVID-19. Norton Healthcare has treated more than 50 COVID-19 patients with convalescent plasma, and many have been able to go home. Don A. Stevens, M.D., a hematologist/oncologist with Norton Cancer Institute and one of the institute’s founders, is the study’s primary investigator.

Hannah began having symptoms March 23. She had chills and a pain in her right side. She thought it might be acid reflux.

A week later, Hannah again had pain and chills. She also had a fever. Her primary care doctor told her to go to the emergency room. At Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital, she initially was diagnosed with acute pneumonia. After a chest X-ray, the news got worse.

“They were like, ‘We’re pretty sure you have COVID, too,’” Hannah said. She subsequently tested positive for COVID-19.

‘It wasn’t going well’

Once Hannah was admitted to the hospital, her condition worsened quickly. A day later, she was having a hard time breathing. On her third day in the hospital, she needed to go on a ventilator.

“I was going to have cardiac arrest where I was about to die, and so the ventilator was the only option at that time to help me breathe,” Hannah said.

Hannah’s father, Timothy Jones, feared his daughter wouldn’t make it.

“Four or five days after they put her on the ventilator, it wasn’t going well,” he said.

Hannah’s 24th birthday was April 12, Easter Sunday. She was still on the ventilator and sedated. Her parents were able to look into her room, but couldn’t enter because of the infection risk.

How to Donate Plasma

Call (502) 446-2688 or fill out a questionnaire in your MyNortonChart account: Choose the “Health” icon. Under “Medical Tools,” choose Questionnaires, then “COVID Plasma Donor.”

“When she saw us, she kept reaching out for us,” her father said. “You want to go in and you can’t help your child, assist your child, at least comfort your child, but you just can’t do that.”

A sudden turnaround

A day later, Hannah received an infusion of convalescent plasma.

Two days after the infusion, on April 15, she was taken off the ventilator, able to breathe on her own for the first time in almost two weeks. A day after that, she was able to move out of the intensive care unit.

Hannah was released from the hospital April 20, after twice testing negative for COVID-19. Doctors and nurses cheered her as she was wheeled to the elevator.

Now home, Hannah said she has been walking to recover her strength.

Hannah, who works with special needs children, is unsure how she became infected with COVID-19. Co-workers and roommates have not been sick.

“The doctors at Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital were amazing,” Hannah said.

So amazing, according to Hannah, that they’ve inspired her to consider training to become a nurse.

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