Chicago coronavirus survivor ready to donate antibody-rich plasma, but work remains experimental

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Caitlin Darcy is a server at Beatnik in West Town. She lost her job when the state shuttered all bars and restaurants. Then she contracted COVID-19.

After four days of severe aches, pain and mild fever, she recovered.

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"I consider myself very lucky that I was able to get tested and I know a lot of people have not been able to," she said.

Darcy feels like a superhero now, because her blood has the antibodies that, in concentrated form, might help others beat the worst of the disease. But there's no process for her to play her part in convalescent plasma therapy.

The Mayo Clinic and Red Cross are experimenting with the process which shows promise under FDA guidelines and in the eyes of at least some infectious disease specialists.

"This is like a tsunami that has washed over the country, so people are playing catch-up for the most part," said Dr. Vishnu Chundi of Metro Infectious Disease Consultants and the Chicago Medical Society COVID-19 task force. "Right now I think we have to go to the next phase which is taking care of our sick people to the best of our ability. Ventilators are important but it's much better to treat them early and keep them off the ventilators and this may be a good choice."

The task force is calling on the governor to convene the people now who could expand the experimental therapy: doctors, hospitals, insurers and blood banks.

"If you get everybody at the table, the doctors clearly want better therapeutic options that we think work and we want to make sure the work correctly and safely, so we need to do this quickly," said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, commissioner of the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Meanwhile, Darcy is wondering when she may be able to return to work and get her life back. Her landlord won't extend her lease past June 1.

The FDA said individual applications to use plasma therapy can be applied for now, but Chicago's doctors think it's time to move much quicker.
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