PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — It’s been a long, tough journey for Jose Jimenez and his family. In March, the Oregon nurse and veteran tested positive for COVID-19 and his health quickly declined.
Jose’s doctors believed a donation of convalescent plasma could help him recover and they reached out to local blood banks to find it. The problem was that Jose has a rare blood type: AB positive.
At that time, his wife Holly said they worked to find the specific donation for several days then posted about the need on Facebook.
Days later, she posted that her husband had received one unit of convalescent plasma matching his blood type.
The FDA said convalescent plasma is the liquid part of the blood that is collected from patients who have recovered from COVID-19. Those patients develop antibodies which are being used as an experimental treatment. It’s still being studied to determine if is actually helps.
In May he tested negative for the coronavirus and is now recovering from acute respirartory syndrome. Jose left the intensive care unit on June 29 and moved to inpatient rehab on July 14.
Though Jose got the treatment and got better it’s unclear if that’s the reason why he’s gotten better.
“I think it was combination of convalescent plasma, supportive care, continuous dialysis and time,” Holly told KOIN 6 News on Thursday. “He’s making improvements for all areas. He’s on a little bit of oxygen now and we have to increase it for activity. He gets short of breath when he’s walking but I hope with time it will improve and he will get stronger.”
Holly said it’s been quite a ride but Jose is making improvements. “I feel great, definitely less stressed than I used to feel.”
The parents of 6 live about an hour south of Eugene in Oakland. Holly, who is also a nurse, said Jose had been working at a mental health unit at the Roseburg VA Health Care System when he became ill. They aren’t sure where Jose was exposed to the coronavirus.
“They changed the visiting policy at the beginning of June so I’ve been making two trips to Portland each week,” Holly told KOIN 6 News on Thursday. He was taken off a ventilator and she said he’s been able to talk for the past 3 weeks.
Need for convalescent plasma
Places like the American Red Cross and Bloodworks Northwest are currently in need of convalescent plasma. Officials with both organizations told KOIN 6 News that as cases increase they will need more donations.
Holly said her husband is thinking about donating plasma.
“I don’t know if he is at a point medically where he can donate plasma yet but I thought it was very kind of him to think of others so badly.”
Dr. Akram Khan, an associate professor at OHSU in pulmonology and critical care medicine, said the antibodies can potentially be given to people to see if it leads to an improvement in their condition.
“This is still an experimental therapy. We don’t know from an individual patient if they are taking antibodies and using them as a donor if their antibodies are effect,” Khan said. “”What we don’t know if the patient got better because of convalescent plasma or they got better because their body responded to the virus in such a manner that healed itself. It still remains experiemental.”
Randal Covin, the medical director for the Pacific Northwest Region of the American Red Cross told KOIN 6 News they had a little inventory, but the need is great.
“As cases are increasing so is the need for convalescent plasma,” Covin said. “We do still absolutely need donors to come in and donate.”