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Katy COVID-19 survivor shares experience with plasma therapy transfusion that he says saved his life

HOUSTON – A Katy man said he was one step away from a ventilator. Yet, on Thursday, Phil Towse said he is happy and healthy after a difficult recovery with coronavirus.

“I had double pneumonia, double pneumonia,” he said.

Phil was diagnosed with COVID-19 in late April. His wife, Cathye Jo Towse, monitored his symptoms but in May when his oxygen plummeted to the danger zone, she drove him to the hospital without knowing if she’d ever see him again.

“It’s very, very difficult to drive your loved one to the ER, walk out and leave them there,” she said.

Cathye Jo said, since the health guidelines prohibit relatives and visitors from being in the room with COVID-19 patients, she couldn’t stay at the hospital.

Then, doctors called with a tough question. She said they asked if she would allow them to use an experimental therapy, using antibodies from survivor’s blood, to treat her husband. She quickly learned to be a candidate to receive convalescent plasma meant things were headed in a bad direction.

“When he got sick, there weren’t a lot of treatments that were even available,” Cathye Jo said. “They didn’t know for sure it was going to work but it was something that was available to help.”

However, some Houston area doctors have been testing the treatment.

“There’s clearly a good signal in decreased mortality in patients who were given this important therapy,” said Dr. Jim Musser, the chair of the Department of Pathology & Genomic Medicine at Houston Methodist.

However, the therapy was recently placed on pause by the FDA. The organization said they want more data to prove that plasma treatment is effective at fighting COVID-19.

“If you look at 28 days post-transfusion of the plasma, there is a significant reduction in mortality and death in those patients who received the plasma,” Musser said.

While none of them really know if the plasma saved Phil’s life or if he would have eventually recovered on his own, his family is thankful for everything Houston Methodist West did for him.

“Would he have gone on a ventilator? Would he have not come home? So, we have to think that those antibodies helped so much and we just appreciate that they so quickly recognized that he was a candidate for it and that that was something he needed,” Cathye Jo said.

“I’m back working, I’ve been working for a month and a half now, lifting weights, mowing the yard, taking care of things and I’m very thankful,” Phil said.

Now Phil is almost in a position where he can donate plasma for someone else.

The Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center is still accepting plasma donations. Actually, they screen blood donations for antibodies, which means even if you’re curious about whether you have antibodies, you can donate blood and find out.

If you have antibodies, they would contact you to request a plasma donation.