Local COVID-19 patients at high risk of severe cases receive antibody transfusion treatment

Local COVID-19 patients at high risk of severe cases receive antibody transfusion treatment

NORTH MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) — Meet Tom and Barb Kiffe, 86-year-old high school sweethearts of Mankato High School Class of 1952 and married for 64 years.

Now they reside at Oak Terrace Assisted Living.

Talk to them for a minute and you’d never know they recovered from COVID-19 earlier this month.

“I had a little fever at first,” Tom said. “Then I had a sore throat. And then just kind of, listless, you know, not bad. I just wasn’t myself.”

They’re two of 120 nursing facility residents in our region introduced to monoclonal antibody treatment — a transfusion that boosts a patient’s immunity with antibodies that are primed to fight the infection.

“We try to take people who are very early in their infection, who have some symptoms, but not very severe infections yet,” explained Dr. Sara Hanson, a COVID frontline care team physician champion. “And we give them this antibody, and it keeps them from having to be admitted to the hospital, from having more severe infections, those kinds of things.”

The Mayo Clinic Health System now uses a mobile unit that travels all around the area to deliver the antibodies to patients at the highest risk of a severe case.

“Once we get to the facility, we bring all our equipment. We move in,” said Tracy Culbertson, a nurse manager at the Mayo Clinic Health System in Manakto and a member of the COVID transfusion center and mobile unit.

They aim to make the treatment as convenient and comfortable as possible.

Barb Kiffe, right, talks with Tracy Culbertson, the Mayo Clinic Health System nurse manager for the COVID Transfusion Center and Mobile Unit, outside Oak Terrace Assisted Living, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, in North Mankato, Minn. Kiffe is one of about 120 nursing facility residents introduced to monoclonal antibody treatment - a transfusion that boosts a patient's immunity with antibodies that are primed to fight the infection.
Barb Kiffe, right, talks with Tracy Culbertson, the Mayo Clinic Health System nurse manager for the COVID Transfusion Center and Mobile Unit, outside Oak Terrace Assisted Living, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, in North Mankato, Minn. Kiffe is one of about 120 nursing facility residents introduced to monoclonal antibody treatment - a transfusion that boosts a patient's immunity with antibodies that are primed to fight the infection. (Source: Gage Cureton)

“We do it right in their room, right in their chair, as they’re watching TV,” Culbertson added. “Some of them have fallen asleep, just getting infused, and it works out really well.”

Tom and Barb received the transfusion a few days after learning they had COVID-19.

“I knew nothing about it but I thought, well, I’m one of these that’s willing to listen,” Barb said.

They concur — it was easy and painless.

“Not really anything. Just an hour transfusion and they take it off,” stated Tom. “And then they watch you for another hour to see if you get any reflexes or side effects.”

Mayo Clinic staff says, while we await more vaccines, monoclonal antibodies is the best tool we have to reduce COVID-19 hospitalizations.

“It’s incredible to have therapies that we can offer to people that are really actually making a difference. Seeing positive results in our region with our patients has been so rewarding,” Hanson exclaimed.

Ask Tom and Barb and they’ll tell you to go for it.

“I highly recommend it,” Tom said. “You don’t know how that virus is gonna go. It could go mild but it could go crazy, too.”

“He’s had heart problems and so forth. And I’ve had problems. So you are a little apprehensive, you know, but I got along fine with it. ... I was thrilled. And I would highly recommend it for anyone,” Barb added.

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