VOORHEES, N.J. - Two patients have made incredible recoveries from COVID-19 after receiving convalescent plasma transfusions in the first week of April, according to Virtua Voorhees Hospital officials.
The patients, Renee Bannister, 63 of Gloucester County, and Andy Fei, 61 of Burlington County, are steadily recuperating from critical cases of the coronavirus and are reportedly expected to return home to their families in May.
They are the first two New Jersey residents to receive the ground-breaking plasma therapy.
FULL COVERAGE: CORONAVIRUS
In just over a week from the initial transfusion, both individuals were successfully taken off ventilators and later discharged from the intensive care unit to the general medical floor.
“We are incredibly excited about these remarkable recoveries. We performed the transfusions just days after the clinical trial was announced, so it is gratifying to be among the first in nation to explore this promising approach to combating the coronavirus,” said Eric Sztejman, MD, a medical director for Virtua Health.
Bannister had been on a ventilator at Virtua Voorhees Hospital for three weeks after being admitted on March 22. She became the first New Jersey resident to receive a convalescent plasma transfusion from her neice, Marisa Leuzzi, and recover from COVID-19.
Leuzzi is the American Red Cross’s first donor for this initiative nationwide.
“I truly felt like I was given a gift to help others and there was no hesitation for me to become a donor,” Leuzzi said.
Fei, a husband, father, and professional opera singer whose career has taken him to notable venues like Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center, is the second person in New Jersey to receive a convalescent plasma transfusion and recover from COVID-19.
He received plasma from Leuzzi on April 5 and nine days later his care team was able to take him off of the ventilator.
Although his recuperation is gradual, Fei, like Bannister, is out of intensive care and will return home in time.
“We are so appreciative of everyone at Virtua, notably Dr. Sztejman and Dr. Jin Guo," his son Patrick said. "Not only did Virtua take good care of our father, but they also took care of us and kept us informed and connected every step along the way. ”
Virtua Voorhees Hospital is one of the few places in the tri-state area demonstrating early results as a result of trialing convalescent plasma donations.
“We must remember that while convalescent plasma has helped these two patients, it is not guaranteed to help all people. More studies are needed, and it is premature to speculate on the ultimate role this treatment option will play,” said Dr. Lukasz Polisiakiewicz. “What I do know for certain, is that it was a great honor for me to provide these two families with good news and a second chance.”
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