Thrive by IU Health

February 18, 2021

Infusion helps patients in early stages of COVID-19

Infusion helps patients in early stages of COVID-19

As the Coronavirus continues to impact Indiana residents IU Health offers a treatment that can help alleviate severe symptoms.

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

It was a Friday night when Chris Roark-Jones came home exhausted. She thought it was probably just the end-of-the week fatigue. But then she slept all day Saturday and again most of the day on Sunday. She was also getting a headache.

A resident of Nashville, Ind. Roark-Jones feels fortunate that she was staying with her daughter in Indianapolis. She feels fortunate that her daughter scheduled a doctor’s appointment. She tested positive for COVID-19. In addition to fatigue and a headache, Roark-Jones’ oxygen levels were at about 92.

Roark-Jones especially feels fortunate that her doctor suggested she receive the drug Bamlanivimab, a monoclonal antibody infusion. The drug, manufactured by Eli Lilly and Company, is designed to treat high-risk non-hospitalized COVID-19 positive patients. The drug is specifically aimed at COVID-positive patients who are over the age of 65 or those with underlying health conditions. Roark-Jones qualified because she is 69.

And since she was in Indianapolis, she was close enough to get the treatment quickly. Just days after her diagnosis, Roark-Jones was sitting in a chair at the new 16-bed IU Health Infusion Center – dedicated specifically to the COVID-19 treatment. The infusion center, located near Methodist Hospital, is designed to separate COVID-19 positive patients from other patients needing infusions – those with compromised immune systems. The treatment takes about an hour for the infusion and a little under that time for patient observation once the treatment is completed.

Monoclonal antibodies are synthetic antibodies that block the virus and prevent it from infecting cells. The intent is to administer the antibodies to people who have mild to moderate symptoms, but aren't sick enough to be hospitalized. The drug is not effective if a patient has suffered 10 days of symptoms.

I went in on the morning of Wednesday, Jan. 13th and I was completely at ease the minute I got there. They met me at the door and were very comforting and informative,” said Roark-Jones. “The staff was great. I kind of dozed off and when I awoke they had covered me in a blanket.”

The mother to three adult children and grandmother to five said she wasn’t accustomed to feeling so tired. Her COVID diagnosis zapped her of energy. But after her infusion, Roark-Jones told her daughter she immediately felt like she was regaining her energy. At home, she showered and for the first time in days, she didn’t have the urge to lie down. Within 24-48 hours her oxygen levels increased to between 97 and 99.

“I am serious when I tell people ‘this was a miracle,’” said Roark-Jones. “It was amazing how quickly I turned around.”

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