Power plasma: Those who have recovered are helping others make it through COVID-19

April 13, 2020

We’re proud to be working closely with the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center on a treatment study using the donated plasma of people who have recovered from COVID-19. We have begun transfusing hospitalized COVID-19-positive patients with the plasma, said Dr. Leslie Greebon, University Health System’s medical director of transfusion services. It’s too early to say how well it is working, Dr. Greebon said, but there have been no adverse events so far.

We are also helping our own recovered patients connect with South Texas Blood and Tissue Center to donate so that they can join the effort to help others in the fight against this virus. People interested in donating can contact South Texas Blood & Tissue Center by email at COVID19@southtexasblood.org or call 210-731-2719. We’re all in this together.

Here’s the status today on a scale of: Good, OK, Concerning or Crisis.

Supplies – OK

We do not have a shortage of supplies or personal protective equipment, PPE. We remain vigilant, however, in our efforts to use materials wisely and acquire what may be needed in the event of a dramatic increase in COVID-19 patients.

Operations – GOOD

Pivoting on the way we deliver breathing treatments

Two very different issues stemming from the pandemic have converged to affect breathing treatments, and University Health System’s pharmacy department has responded.

Albuterol and Ipratropium, the most common bronchodilators given as breathing treatments, are in short supply. The hospital has a supply but needs to manage it very carefully, especially since we don’t know what the next weeks will bring.

How they are administered is the other part: MDI pumps (metered dose inhalers) are recommended instead of nebulizers for all patients who have or are suspected of having COVID-19. The reason is that nebulizers increase the risk of releasing the COVID-19 virus particles into the air, or aerosolizing them. Normally they travel in large droplets that a standard surgical mask (properly used) can protect against.

Responding to this pair of issues, the University Health System pharmacy department, led by Elliott Mandell, issued a recommendation that the supply of medicines be carefully managed, and that if needed by a COVID-19-positive or suspected positive patient, that they only be given in the form of an MDI pump. Nebulizer treatments are being used for non-COVID-19-positive or suspected patients. This conserves the supply of medications and gives our staff on the front lines better protection from potential exposure.

Community – Good

Mr. Do Tran and his daughter San Tran, a former University Health System employee, both representing the Vietnamese community of San Antonio, donated masks. We’ve received many gift cards from InThisTogetherSA.com through Magaly Chocano of Sweb Development. And further generous food contributions have come to our staff through our employee Missam Merchant and the San Antonio Indian Nurses’ Association, along with The University of Texas at Arlington Online Nursing and Texas A&M International; The Santana Group and Deco Pizzeria; and the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation and Paesanos with special meals on Easter Sunday.