Tim Yarnik, his wife and daughter were on their way to an outing in St. Louis and planned to visit his dad, who lives in Staunton, on the way there.
His dad, Art, who’s 87 years old and lives alone, wasn’t acting himself, and his forehead felt warm. They urged him to be tested for COVID-19. Two days later, he tested positive for the virus. His fever was 103 degrees. “We were frightened for him,” Yarnik said.
Tim Yarnik reached out to a friend, who told him about a new therapy that helped COVID-19 patients. When he called Memorial Health System’s respiratory clinic, the staff told him they had a 5 p.m. opening that day and stressed the importance of not waiting another day. Yarnik’s brother-in-law drove his dad to Springfield.
After the therapy, his dad never had a fever again and felt a little better each day.
Yarnik’s dad was one of more than 365 patients who received the monoclonal antibody treatment, an infusion therapy called bamlanivimab or bam infusion, which Memorial Health System offers to help patients who have mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19. During infusion therapy, medication is administered to patients through an IV.
Bill and Kim Mitchell of Versailles in Brown County also received the infusion therapy from Passavant Area Hospital in Jacksonville. After their middle-school aged son woke up with a headache and later tested positive for COVID-19, the Mitchells also got tested; they were positive as well.
Both Mitchells were running a low-grade fever that wasn’t going away, and they were exhausted. Bill Mitchell lost his sense of smell. However, they thought it was something that would pass. “You don’t think you are as sick as you are,” Bill Mitchell said.
After receiving the infusion therapy, their fever was gone within eight to 10 hours. And a day or two later, they were back to full health.
“This therapy is ideal for anyone with mild or moderate COVID-19 symptoms. It is beneficial for individuals who are high-risk secondary to a medical condition, such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, lung disease or are over 65 without a health condition,” said Dr. Anna Richie, medical director for Memorial Physician Services’ ExpressCare. “It’s not a cure, but it does appear to slow progression and worsening of the disease.”
The infusion therapy is available locally on an outpatient basis at Memorial’s South Sixth Street location in Springfield, the ExpressCare on North Water Street in Decatur and Passavant Area Hospital. Outcomes have been positive with no serious adverse reactions, Richie said.
The treatment is available by referral from a physician or for patients of the respiratory clinic. Rapid testing availability has increased the opportunity to use the treatment locally.
“For the best outcome, this treatment needs to be given soon to prevent disease progression, but it is time sensitive,” Richie said. “It’s important to be tested early if you have symptoms of COVID-19 in order to have access to treatments and prevent hospitalization.”
Yarnik can testify to that. He was grateful the treatment was able to keep his dad from possibly being hospitalized. “The care my dad received from the staff there was great. Everyone was so helpful to my dad’s recovery,” he said.
The Mitchells received similar care. “Everyone was kind and compassionate,” Bill Mitchell said. “I can’t say enough about what a great job they did up and down the line.”