A longtime South Florida doctor is now fighting for his own life, after catching the very disease he was treating in others.
Dr. Vladimir Laroche has practiced internal medicine for nearly 40 years. Recently, he was hospitalized at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center with the novel coronavirus.
His brother, Paul Laroche, says Dr. Laroche had quickly adjusted to his new role as front-line medical staff during the pandemic when he suddenly began to feel symptoms. The virus is attacking his lungs, which has led to him being intubated and depending on a ventilator in the intensive care unit.
“He almost died yesterday and at this point, his last saving chance is to get the plasma transfusion,” Paul Laroche adds, referring to convalescent serum therapy, which is being considered as a potential COVID-19 treatment that depends on a supply of blood plasma from survivors of the disease who developed antibodies capable of neutralizing the virus.
Hospitals and blood banks across the country are now collecting, isolating, and processing the blood plasma. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued emergency authorization for the convalescent serum therapy last month.
“We started looking for plasma and plasma donors because the demand is so high and the supply is so short,” says Paul Laroche.
Dr. Laroche’s colleagues at FoundCare Health Center are assisting the family with the search. Dr. Laroche reportedly needs a cup of the serum. For every donor, two to four patients can be treated.
Since there are no proven therapies or vaccines to date for COVID-19, some doctors believe the passive-antibody therapy, which has been used before to treat a similar disease, can control the coronavirus for the time being.
OneBlood, which is a blood donation center that serves South Florida, recently announced that Miami Mayor Francis Suarez was the first COVID-19 survivor in Florida to become a convalescent plasma donor.
A OneBlood spokeswoman says 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.