CORONAVIRUS

First Utahn Treated With Plasma Transfusion Recovering, Returns Home

May 1, 2020, 7:15 PM | Updated: Jul 13, 2023, 2:48 pm

MURRAY, Utah — Utah’s first recipient of a convalescent plasma transfusion is recovering and has returned home.

Cynthia Lemus spent the last three weeks on a ventilator, battling COVID-19 at Intermountain Medical Center.

“My body still feels really weak. I don’t feel like my full self,” she said in an online press conference.

Until a few days ago, Lemus and her husband did not know whether she would make it out of the hospital alive.

Intermountain doctors said they are thrilled about her recovery, but cannot attribute it directly to the plasma transfusion.

“Trying to get my energy back,” she said.

Lemus said she still feels pretty wiped out, but the majority of COVID-19 patients who go on ventilators do not recover.

“The journey itself was a complete nightmare,” said her husband, Moises Lemus.

He could not be at her side while she was hospitalized due to the virus and said he was terrified not knowing how she was doing.

It was truly a triumphant moment when the 24-year-old left the hospital Thursday. Doctors and nurses cheered her on as she was rolled away in a wheelchair.

Cynthia Lemus spent 20 days on a ventilator and received a plasma infusion 13 days ago with COVID-19 antibodies as part of a study with the Mayo Clinic, sponsored by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.

“It was a little bit scary being there alone since family isn’t allowed to be at the hospital,” she said. “But, I know that all of the doctors and nurses that were there made me feel like family.”

When a person is infected with a virus, the body generates an immune response and makes antibodies specific to that virus. In theory, those antibodies attach to the virus particles, and can neutralize the virus.

“Cynthia actually received the state of the art, most intensive type of life support therapy which allowed her to battle the infection, while giving her lungs a break so they could heal,” said Dr. Brandon Webb with Intermountain Healthcare.

“It’s hard to say for sure whether the plasma is the factor that’s making a difference, but in general, the patients who have received it have seen small, but measured improvements,” said Dr. Dave Morris with Intermountain Healthcare.

In the past two weeks, 11 more Intermountain patients have been given plasma donations, and two more have said they are ready and willing.

Moises and Cynthia Lemus urged everyone to take COVID-19 seriously.

Moises Lemus spent three weeks not knowing whether he would see his wife again. But when he finally saw her, he was overcome with emotion.

“My heart dropped,” he said. “It was like she was walking down the aisle again. Tears were coming out. It was just amazing.”

The doctors urged COVID-19 survivors to consider donating their plasma.

Survivors can visit redcrossblood.org to see if they are eligible.

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First Utahn Treated With Plasma Transfusion Recovering, Returns Home