For Dr. Sherine Hanna, fighting COVID-19 is both professional and personal.
Dr. Hanna is the medical director of surgical services for OSF HealthCare Saint Elizabeth and Saint Paul Medical Centers. She has seen the serious impact COVID-19 has had on patients as well as fellow Mission Partners (employees) at her hospitals.
Two days before Thanksgiving, Hanna’s father, Farag Girgis, who lives in the Chicago suburb of Bolingbrook, began complaining of a cold. “He called me and said ‘I’m not coming over for Thanksgiving. I don’t feel right.’ He doesn’t usually complain,” Hanna said. “I suggested he and my mom get tested. Any cold at this time is not good.”
Girgis went to an urgent care center where his daughter’s worst fears were confirmed: her father tested positive for COVID-19. “I was worried he wasn’t going to survive,” Hanna said. “He has so many health issues – high blood pressure, kidney problems, spinal stenosis – to name a few. I knew we had to act fast.”
Dr. Hanna spent the next day calling Chicago-area hospitals in search of monoclonal immunotherapy infusion that helps prevent COVID-19 hospital admissions. It’s called Bamlanivimab, or BAM, and is approved for high risk adult and pediatric COVID-19 positive patients with mild to moderate symptoms. The laboratory-made antibody mimics a naturally occurring one, which is known to fight off the virus that causes COVID-19. The Eli Lilly drug received an emergency use authorization (EUA) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the therapy in November.
Using all avenues available, Dr. Hanna had no luck finding help. “The Chicago-area hospitals either did not have the infusion, or had it and had no protocol,” she said. “There was so much confusion on who would write the order for the monoclonal antibodies. I had telehealth visits with urgent care, and they had no idea about the treatment that was approved.”
Fortunately, there was one place Hanna could turn. The drug is being administered in specially designated outpatient infusion sites throughout OSF HealthCare. Patients who qualify for BAM have been found to be at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness, and might need hospitalization if untreated. BAM is most effective when given early, and needs to be administered within 10 days of the onset of symptoms. BAM is not intended for routine use in the management of COVID-19, and is not approved for hospitalized COVID-19 patients.
Dr. Hanna took her father to OSF Saint Elizabeth in Ottawa, IL, where he underwent a telehealth visit and was scheduled for infusion therapy on Friday, November 27, which happened to be the first day OSF offered the monoclonal immunotherapy infusion. Girgis was the second patient to receive the treatment. Hanna dropped her father off at the infusion center and picked him up two hours later. He went home and required no oxygen. Hanna says his turnaround was nothing short of “amazing.”
“I can’t say enough about the level of professionalism displayed at every level of our experience,” said Dr. Hanna. “I am indebted to Dr. Brian Rosborough and his team for the professionalism displayed, and the smooth coordination.”
OSF Medical Group in Ottawa, Ill., has treated approximately 40 patients since November with BAM. “The goal is to keep patients out of the hospital,” said Dr. Rosborough, chief medical officer, OSF Saint Elizabeth Medical Center. “So far it appears the treatment is being well tolerated and patients are responding favorably.”
“Through OSF we were able to coordinate and get these infusion centers up and running as soon as we were able to get the monoclonal antibody from the state,” added Dr. Rosborough. “We just happened to be on our game and ready to go.”
So far, OSF HealthCare has treated 672 patients with BAM. “We believe that, thanks to the BAM infusion, we have prevented as many as 60 people from being hospitalized with COVID-19,” said Mark Meeker, D.O., vice president of physician services, OSF HealthCare. “Other diseases aren’t going away because COVID is here. So people still need treatment for other illnesses. So we need capacity to take care of them. We can’t afford for our hospitals to totally fill up with COVID, because then we can’t take care of other people. I am hopeful that this antibody indeed lowers the progression of disease in this high risk population so we can keep our hospitals out of full capacity.”
Dr. Hanna says she’s proud to work for OSF HealthCare and she’s relieved her father found the care he desperately needed.
“My dad had every risk factor, and would not have survived COVID without the help of the monoclonal antibody treatment he received at OSF HealthCare.”