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Colleagues fight red tape to get experimental treatment for HFD Capt. Searcy battling COVID-19

WOODLANDS, Texas – Houston firefighters are doing everything they can to help a beloved 17-year veteran of the Houston Fire Department after he got sick with COVID-19 and is now fighting for his life. Captain Tommy Searcy is in critical condition at Memorial Hermann in the Woodlands, officials said, Tuesday. After hours of communication and battling red tape, early Tuesday morning, Searcy’s colleagues brought over an experimental drug which they hope will help save his life.

“All we care about is that we give Captain Searcy every opportunity to fight this. However we can do it — we’re going to do it,” said Marty Lancton with the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association President.

Unrelenting determination is the feeling consuming Lancton and Searcy’s colleagues, including Searcy’s twin Tony, who is also an HFD captain.

“Tommy has not been progressing very well. The word that his brother best described it as —that the doctors told Tony is — that they were ‘concerned,’ " Lancton said.

With dwindling options, firefighters had hoped an experimental drug being used in Houston could be an answered prayer, but the trial is being facilitated at Houston Methodist. Searcy is at Memorial Hermann in the Woodlands.

"What we did [Monday] was send a letter to the pharma company. It's called NeuroRx. Almost immediately they reached back out," Lancton said.

Lancton worked all Monday evening to contact Houston Methodist, Memorial Hermann and Searcy's doctors to battle the red tape and get a special exception to have Searcy receive the trial drug. Late Monday evening, they were able to get the approval from all parties.

"I [then] told them, 'What does it take?' They said the drug needs to get from Methodist to Hermann," Lancton said. "We have a saying: 'Whatever it takes,' and we mean it!"

So at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday, Lancton and an avid team of supporters from the Houston Fire Department showed up at Houston Methodist to get the drug and drive it over to Memorial Hermann in the Woodlands, via escort. To their relief, they made it at 7:28 am.

“The fact that it all came together, I believe is a miracle in and of itself. That’s one step, and now it’s in God’s hands,” Lancton said.

The drug known as RFL-100 is still in clinical trials, but has shown to help patients, according to NeuroRx.

"Aviptadil, a synthetic form of human Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide (VIP) has been granted FDA Fast Track Designation for the treatment of Critical COVID-19 with respiratory failure and is now in phase 2/3 clinical trials, with initial determinations of safety and non-futility. Rapid recovery from Critical COVID-19 with respiratory failure as been seen in multiple patients treated with open label VIP under FDA Emergency Use IND," NeuroRX's website states.

Now, the Houston Fire Department is asking the community for help.

“We just ask for prayer. I’m a firm believer in that,” Houston Fire Chief Sam Pena, said. “I can’t say enough about the Searcy family. They’ve done an extraordinary job and have a commitment to this community. I spoke with our medical director here and they assured me that the doctors who are working with Captain Searcy are some of the best doctors that we can ask for.”

Pena wants the Searcy family to know they're not alone.

“The fire department will be there right by their side, and we’re going to continue to be there and support them and make sure they have everything they need,” Pena said. “We want to ask the community to pray for Captain Searcy. The department has buried two firefighters already. I really don’t want to bury a third. So, we ask for your help, your support and your prayers.”