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St. Luke’s treats 500th COVID-19 patient with monoclonal antibodies

St. Luke’s University Health Network infused its 500th COVID-19 outpatient with monoclonal antibodies.

Monoclonal antibody therapy at St. Luke’s has helped all Lehigh Valley hospitals avoid being overwhelmed during the current surge, allowing certain high-risk patients to recover quickly in the comfort of their own homes.

Granted emergency authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, monoclonal antibodies block the virus’ attachment and entry into human cells. Infusion has been found to be particularly effective in preventing the need for hospitalization in select, higher-risk patients including those who are 65 years of age or older and whose infection, identified early, does not yet require supplemental oxygen.

Joe Kitchell, a part-time paramedic in New Jersey happily says he’s proof-positive that the BAM monoclonal antibody works.

“I feel great,” he said recently, “and lucky to have gotten the treatment,” Kitchell said.

Kitchell, 52, came down with COVID symptoms on Christmas Day.

His fever, cough, headache and body aches alerted the veteran first responder that he was COVID-sick, and a test confirmed that two days later.

But within less than a week, through his web of professional work connections in the medical field, Kitchell received an infusion of the Eli Lilly monoclonal antibodies at the St. Luke’s Easton Campus. And the next morning, he was feeling better already: headache gone, increased energy but still with a slight cough (he has asthma).

The Bethlehem Township resident is back to transporting patients to St. Luke’s Easton for various illness and injuries—including scores critically ill with COVID—and grateful to St. Luke’s and his medical friends who encouraged him and arranged for his monoclonal antibody infusion.

“I think it’s a great treatment and give St. Luke’s a lot of credit for opening infusion centers in the community.”

St. Luke’s began using monoclonal antibodies, which received emergency use authorization from the FDA, just before Thanksgiving in its Easton and Warren, NJ facilities.

Wilda Cortez-Sanchez of Allentown, was back to cooking and cleaning just a few days after having her treatment with the Lilly antibody at St. Luke’s Easton in early January. Her fever was gone and her energy, smell and taste and appetite had returned.

“I feel very good. The virus is gone,” says Cortez-Sanchez, whose mother and husband also contracted the illness, too.

Her primary care physician, Pavel Terreros, MD, had referred his patient to the hospital’s infusion center for the treatment, like he has with more than 20 of his other patients from his downtown Allentown office.

“Everyone who had the infusion improved within 24-48 hours after treatment and no one was hospitalized,” Cortez-Sanchez said.

“It’s really working!,” Cortez-Sanchez said.

Infectious disease specialist Peter Ender, MD, who helps run the COVID-19 treatment programs at SLUHN, says, “Monoclonal antibodies are an important outpatient therapy that we know has benefit in keeping people out of the hospital.”

Unlike St. Luke’s, many hospitals in Pennsylvania and across the country have not taken full advantage of their allocations of monoclonal antibodies. St. Luke’s is proud to have made this important weapon in the fight against COVID-19 accessible to residents of the Lehigh Valley.

Jay Edwards

Born and raised in Northwest NJ, Jay has a degree in Communications and has had a life-long interest in local radio and various styles of music. Jay has held numerous jobs over the years such as stunt car driver, bartender, voice-over artist, traffic reporter (award winning), NY Yankee maintenance crewmember and peanut farm worker. His hobbies include mountain climbing, snowmobiling, cooking, performing stand-up comedy and he is an avid squirrel watcher. Jay has been a guest on America’s Morning Headquarters,program on The Weather Channel, and was interviewed by Sam Champion.

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