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‘I’m Glad I Got It’

City Man Receives Specialized COVID-19 Treatment

Right, Dr. Wolf-Dieter Krahn treated, left, Jeffrey Johnson with the monoclonal antibodies treatment, which reduces the chances of hospitalization or death for people diagnosed with COVID-19. P-J photo by Dennis Phillips

A specialized treatment to help people, especially those over the age of 65, who have tested positive for COVID-19 may be the reason a Jamestown man is still alive.

The treatment is monoclonal antibodies, Monoclonal — “mono” means “one” and “clonal” means “copy” — antibodies are a type of medication that seeks out the COVID-19 virus in a person’s body and blocks it from infecting their cells and replicating. According to Dr. Graham Snyder, UPMC medical director of infection prevention and hospital epidemiology, the use of monoclonal antibodies in a recently infected COVID-19 patient has the ability to reduce the chances of hospitalization or death by 70%. He said UPMC has provided the treatment to more than 1,000 COVID-19 patients.

The treatment was given to Jeffrey Johnson of West Ellicott after he tested positive for COVID-19.

Johnson, who is 67 years old, said he felt sick on Jan. 11, so he called his physician, Dr. Wolf-Dieter Krahn, who scheduled Johnson to get tested for COVID-19 on Jan. 13. Johnson was tested during the day, and by the evening was contacted by Krahn, who informed him that he had tested positive for COVID-19.

“I couldn’t get off my couch,” Johnson said. “I was feeling pretty sick.”

Because the monoclonal antibody treatment is only allowed to be given to a patient within 10 days of the first symptoms, Krahn knew he had to act fast to ensure Johnson received the treatment. One day after testing positive, Johnson was sitting in a “comfortable lounge chair” receiving the treatment from an IV. He said the treatment took one hour and he had to remain an additional hour for observation.

“Within seven days, I was back to normal,” he said. “I never had trouble breathing. I never felt like going to the hospital.”

Johnson said he had no hesitation about receiving monoclonal antibodies, in part, because former President Donald Trump received the new treatment.

“They were going to give me the same thing the president got? I didn’t get picked up in a helicopter, but I thought, ‘Why not,”’ Johnson said about receiving the treatment.

Krahn said he has only had three to four patients receive the monoclonal antibody treatment.

“I haven’t had that many people with COVID,” Krahn said. “The eye-opening moment for me was one of my other patients, with a history of cancer, was too late to receive the treatment. It’s why I called (Johnson) so quickly.”

Krahn said, in January, the treatment was only available for people 65 years or older and for people overweight. He said the restrictions on who can receive the treatment has now broaden, so people with asthma, heart disease, diabetes and other medical conditions can receive monoclonal antibodies. He added that people who go to the emergency room because they are feeling sick who test positive with COVID-19 can now receive the treatment on the spot if the staff pharmacist is available and the patient doesn’t need to be hospitalized.

“It keeps people out of the hospital,” Krahn said.

Johnson said the treatment offered him a sense of relief because he doesn’t have to worry about the “what-ifs” of COVID-19.

“I’m glad I got it,” he said.

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