WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Dr. Vladimir Laroche has devoted nearly four decades to saving lives. Now the internal medicine physician is fighting for his at the Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center. He is suffering with COVID-19, the contagious respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus.
His brother Paul Laroche said Dr. Laroche had adapted to his role as front-line medical staff during the pandemic when he began to feel symptoms. He was hospitalized. The virus is attacking his lungs, so he is intubated and depends on a ventilator at the intensive care unit.
“He almost died yesterday and at this point, his last saving chance is to get the plasma transfusion,” Paul Laroche said referring to convalescent serum therapy, a potential COVID-19 treatment that depends on a supply of blood plasma from COVID-19 survivors who developed antibodies capable of neutralizing the virus.
Hospitals and blood banks around the country are collecting, isolating, and processing the blood plasma. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued emergency authorization for the convalescent serum therapy on March 24. With cases rising, the demand has skyrocketed.
“We started looking for plasma and plasma donors because the demand is so high and the supply is so short,” said Paul Laroche, who lives in Miami.
Dr. Laroche’s colleagues at FoundCare Health Center are helping the family with the search. Dr. Laroche needs a cup of the serum. For every donor, two to four patients can be treated.
Since there are no proven therapies or vaccines, some doctors are convinced that the passive-antibody therapy, which has been used before to treat similar disease, has the capacity to keep the new coronavirus at bay for now.
OneBlood, a blood donation center servicing South Florida, announced Miami Mayor Francis Suarez was the first COVID-19 survivor in Florida to become a convalescent plasma donor. Sunsan Forbes, of OneBlood said prospective donors must be eligible to give blood, have a verified positive diagnosis, remain symptom-free for at least 14 days and have a confirmed negative test.
“Our teams behind the scenes are moving very quickly to process and test those units,” Forbes said. “In some cases, donations have been given to hospitals in less than 24 hours.”
Paul Laroche fears time is running out for his brother.
“If you’re at home and you’ve gone through this process, this is your chance to shine as a superhero,” he said.
For more information about how to help Dr. Laroche, call Dr. Serges Thys at 561-776-8300 or Dr. Jean Labissiere at 561-739-9333 or Dr. Serges Alexandre at 561-276-8444.