Andrea Holloway, released Wednesday from Buffalo General Medical Center, became the hospital’s 200th patient to recover from Covid-19.
The 28-year-old personal care aide at Buffalo General was the first Kaleida Health patient to receive Remdesivir, an experimental drug based on antibodies from other Covid-19 patients.
She also received convalescent plasma, an infusion of blood drawn from a Covid-19 survivor.
Did the drug and infusion make a difference?
“Honestly, I can’t tell you,” Holloway said in a phone interview from her home. “They say it takes a couple of days to work, if it did, so honestly I don’t know, because I got that done and the next day I was sent down to ICU.”
So far, 59 patients have received convalescent plasma at Buffalo General, but only a few have received Remdesivir, because the hospital received only a small allocation after the manufacturer donated a supply to the government, said Dr. Jamie Nadler, a critical care physician who treated Holloway in the Kaleida Health facility.
The goal of the treatments is to reduce the number of patients who need to go on ventilators.
“We have started to give the plasma to our less-ill floor patients, and some of them have not needed to go to the ICU,” Nadler said. “Anecdotally, I hope that means that the convalescent plasma is working, but I can’t say that with certainty.”
The drug and infusion were not advertised as cures for the virus. But in some early tests, they had shown the ability to reduce the virus’s effects and shorten a patient’s hospitalization.
Although Holloway was given the plasma on the second day of her hospitalization, she ended up spending 26 days in the hospital – with 15 days on a ventilator in the intensive care unit.
While on the ventilator, she was given Remdesivir, Nadler said.
“Did she get better and leave the hospital because the treatments worked, or did she just get better on her own? Our hope would be that at least part of her recovery was the therapy that we gave her, but there’s no way to test to confirm it was one or the other,” Nadler added.
Nadler, however, noted Holloway survived much longer on a ventilator than most other patients do, especially older ones.
After her release, Holloway tested her endurance by climbing a flight of 15 steps in her home. She made it, although she needed to sit down right away.
“I’m a little weak because I spent so long in a bed being on a ventilator,” Holloway said. “I feel just a little weak in the legs and stuff like that, but I have no fever. I really don’t have any more symptoms of it. A sore throat, but I had a tube down my throat for so long. Other than that I feel perfectly fine and I’m real happy to be home.”
“Fifteen days is a long time to spend on a ventilator. You can have a lot of complications,” Nadler said. “But she is obviously young and tolerated it well.”
Kaleida is taking part in a nationwide clinical trial of convalescent plasma under the direction of the Mayo Clinic, Nadler said.
“I don’t think we’ve seen any bad side effects from the medication, but whether it’s working or the patients are getting better on their own is still yet to be seen,” Nadler said.
After being taken off the ventilator, Holloway spent three more days in the ICU and a week on a regular medical floor before being released Wednesday to the cheers of a crowd of hospital staffers and the hugs of her 10-year-old daughter, Lillianna Byrd, and her father, Andrew Holloway.
“It was a great team. They did awesome care,” Andrea Holloway said.
“She may have spent longer in the hospital and still survived without the treatments, or she may have continued to deteriorate. I wish we could say definitively that something we gave her worked, but I really can’t,” Nadler said.
But whether or not the experimental drugs had anything to do with it, Andrea Holloway is thrilled to be a Covid-19 survivor.
“I’m really happy, because I’m here to see another day,” she said.