Transplant surgeon recovers from COVID-19, donates plasma

We are IU Health

June 05, 2020

It was late March when Dr. Andrew Lutz traveled out of the state as part of the organ recovery team. Days later he tested positive for COVID-19.

By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org

He was on a six-seat jet traveling to another hospital as part of the organ recovery team. The trip was a typical part of IU Health Dr. Andrew Lutz’s job. He is a transplant surgeon.

But days later, that routine took a turn when Lutz learned one of his travel companions had spiked a fever. He immediately began self-isolation and was tested for COVID-19. The test came back positive.

Over the next two weeks he remained alone in a room in his home – away from his wife and three children.

“They dropped off food outside the bedroom door and that was it. It was pretty miserable. I was thankful it wasn’t worse,” said Lutz, who joined the staff of IU Health in August of 2018. He completed medical school and his fellowship through Indiana University School of Medicine.

He said his symptoms included fever, headaches, nausea, and a cough. He also said he lost his sense of smell and taste. Lutz continued his recovery at home, returned to IU Health on April 17 and was back performing kidney transplant surgeries seven days later.

Working in transplant is especially gratifying for Lutz. “It makes a huge difference in someone’s life. When a patient has been on dialysis and then gets a transplant they are so grateful to get back their quality of life.”

When he became eligible for convalescent plasma donation, Lutz became a donor. More than 800 people have recovered from the Coronavirus, and have been screened by IU Health for plasma donation. More than 350 have been identified as a candidate for donation and referred to the Versiti Indiana Blood Center. According to IU Health transplant infectious disease doctor Nicolas Barros, more than 100 patients have benefited from convalescent plasma. Read more here.

By assisting with the screening process, IU Health is helping the blood center expedite the donation process to ensure enough convalescent plasma is available to hospitals for treatment of critically ill COVID-19 patients.

COVID-19 recovered plasma donation remains important as the Versiti Indiana Blood Center prepares for a possible surge in COVID-19 cases this fall. Plasma can be stored for up to a year.

Click here to become a donor.

Plasma donors must be able to prove they had a COVID-19 diagnosis with a documented positive COVID-19 test or antibody COVID-19 laboratory test. Donors must also be symptom-free for 14 days.

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