ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. (WJHL) – An Elizabethton woman infected with COVID-19 says a treatment under FDA emergency use authorization greatly improved her chances at fighting off the disease.
Ellie Light was vaccinated, but her daughter came home from school with COVID. Light tested positive a week and a half ago. Soon after, her symptoms started becoming severe.
“It felt like there was a bowling ball exploding inside my head getting bigger and bigger,” Light said. “The pressure was horrible.”
Light is a Type 1 diabetic and knew she needed medical care. A friend told her about a treatment called monoclonal antibodies, also known as REGN-COV2, made by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.
The drug, administered through an IV injection, is only available for individuals positive for COVID that are 65 or older or have comorbidities. A doctor’s recommendation is required to receive the treatment. Light was able to get that recommendation because of her diabetes.
It is only approved for use in individuals with mild or moderate COVID symptoms. The injection must be made within 10 days of the first sign of symptoms.
State of Franklin Healthcare Clinical Pharmacist Dr. Whitney Aultman said the treatment can improve a patient’s chances at avoiding hospitalization.
“It’s meant to give your system a boost to fight that infection, then hopefully decrease how severe it is and how long the infection’s going to last,” Aultman said.
She said it is the best treatment doctors have right now for COVID-infected patients.
But finding the treatment, especially in the 10-day window, is difficult because demand is high, according to Johnson City Internal Medicine Director of Nursing Karen Gingras.
“There’s limited facilities that are available to treat patients in a timely manner,” Gingras said.
As of Tuesday, State of Franklin Healthcare was completely out of the antibodies – still waiting on more to arrive.
Light said appointments in Unicoi County, then Abingdon, Virginia fell through. It was two days after her doctor recommended the treatment that she found an availability at Russell County Hospital in Lebanon, Virginia last Wednesday.
“I was not in good shape and very grateful to be getting to the hospital,” Light said. “I was starting to get worried I would have to wait a week [for the treatment.] That was concerning because I was starting to go downhill.”
Light said it took about 20 minutes for the injection to complete, then an hour for observation. She immediately felt the results. She said she was able to sleep that night for the first time in days.
“It has kept me fairly level and kept me from going downhill,” Light said. “I still have a headache, but I don’t feel like I need doctor’s care or hospital care. I feel like I just need to rest and get better.”
She credited her stability to having both the vaccine and the antibody injection. Light has stayed out of the hospital apart from a brief emergency room visit for shortness of breath.
Dr. Aultman said there is still a chance for hospitalization if you have COVID and get the monoclonal antibody treatment. She said the best way to protect yourself from hospitalization is to get the vaccine.