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Coronavirus patient's condition improving after experimental plasma therapy, but doctors cautiously optimistic

Jimmie Hayden is the first San Antonian to receive a plasma transfusion from a neighbor who beat the disease.

SAN ANTONIO — A San Antonio coronavirus patient is making history from his hospital bed.

Jimmie Hayden is the first person in the city to be treated with plasma—from a coronavirus survivor.

“It's a very emotional journey that no one wants to go one, especially when they can't be with their loved ones,” said Jimmie’s wife, Ashley Hayden. "(It was) excruciating to watch him walk in there and it was hard to leave. Then to get the call a couple hours later that they were going to put him on a ventilator was very scary.”

That's how Ashley recalls having to leave her husband when coronavirus symptoms made breathing difficult. That was back on April 2nd; now, she says he's doing much better.

"He's able to talk. Today he was able to eat solid food. These are all great things and he's taking great strides and I can tell each time I talk to him (that) he's getting stronger,” Ashley said.

Jimmie is under the care of Methodist Stone Oak Pulmonologist Dr. Pedro Lucero.

"After we gave the plasma, we did see a dramatic improvement in some of the markers for him that show inflammation," Lucero said. "But it's difficult to discern whether or not it was the plasma or was he getting better."

The novel coronavirus currently has no treatment and a potential vaccine is still months away, but blood plasma with antibodies from recovered patients could provide passive immunity to certain patients fighting the disease.

Hayden received that plasma from a San Antonio man who has recovered after being diagnosed for COVID-19 earlier this year.

Lucero is optimistic, but he says more testing is needed before this type of treatment can be approved for every coronavirus patient.

"I do hope it becomes an option, because we have a whole donor pool out there that could potentially donate plasma, and if it's effective then we have a source of it and it's not very complicated to get,” he said.

The South Texas Blood and Tissue Center is calling for more plasma donations from people in our community who have fully recovered from COVID-19. So far, Metro Health officials say 176 San Antonians have recovered from the illness. 

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