PROVO – A man who spent six weeks in the hospital and more than three weeks on a ventilator with COVID-19 said convalescent plasma saved his life.
Ray Leazenby, 60, of Orange County, California, was discharged from Utah Valley Hospital in Provo Tuesday.
His family said just weeks earlier it was in question whether Leazenby would survive the novel coronavirus.
“(There were) lots of prayers and lots of faith, but it was the plasma — and it is a miracle,” wife Debra said. “I watched it with my own eyes.”
Leazenby’s fight with COVID-19 began earlier this summer after a family gathering.
While the family maintained that it socially-distanced and followed all recommended precautions, Leazenby said all 20 adults present contracted the disease along with multiple children.
His case quickly proved to be the most severe as relatives rushed him initially to American Fork Hospital.
“By the time they got him to the hospital, he had lost his speech,” Debra Leazenby said. “He couldn’t recognize anybody, he couldn’t follow simple commands.”
As his condition worsened, Leazenby was flown to Utah Valley Hospital.
He contracted double pneumonia and encephalitis.
“The pneumonia was so bad, they had to put him on 100% oxygen on the bed,” Debra said. “They had to keep him on his stomach and they had to physically not just sedate him but paralyze him, too.”
Debra Leazenby said Ray was in such poor shape at one point that it looked like he may not survive.
None of the treatments seemed to be working, and then one last option emerged.
“This was a few hours after they told me he wasn’t going to make it through the day,” the wife said. “It was called convalescent plasma.”
Debra Leazenby said within eight hours of beginning the treatment, her husband’s condition leveled off.
He has steadily improved since, up through his Tuesday discharge. Though Leazenby has little recollection of those six weeks in the hospital, he is grateful the treatment worked and he is pleading with others who have had COVID-19 to donate their convalescent plasma.
Last month, the Associated Press reported an emergency authorization was given to treat COVID-19 patients with convalescent plasma, which is blood plasma taken from patients who have recovered from the coronavirus and rich in antibodies. But the evidence so far has not been conclusive about whether it works, when to administer it and what dose is needed.
It also reported that in a letter describing the emergency authorization, the chief scientist for the FDA, Denise Hinton, said: “COVID-19 convalescent plasma should not be considered a new standard of care for the treatment of patients with COVID-19. Additional data will be forthcoming from other analyses and ongoing, well-controlled clinical trials in the coming months.”
The Red Cross for one, has been collecting those types of donations.
Leazenby also hopes people will simply take the disease seriously and take the precautions necessary to reduce the spread and minimize the risk.
“I thought I was a fit individual, body-builder my whole life—you know, the strongest guy in the room,” Leazenby said. “I’m the one who almost died from it.”