High-Risk Heart Patient Beats COVID-19 Thanks to New Monoclonal Antibody Therapy

Clarence McDowell, 43, of New Hartford, is extra merry this holiday season thanks to the new COVID-19 monoclonal therapy he received at UConn Health.

Clarence McDowell, 43, of New Hartford, receiving one of the first monoclonal antibody therapy infusions at UConn John Dempsey Hospital. Thanks to UConn Health's innovative care offerings McDowell as a high-risk heart failure patient successfully beat COVID-19 (Photo by Division of Infectious Diseases at UConn Health).

Clarence McDowell, 43, of New Hartford, is extra merry this holiday season thanks to the new COVID-19 monoclonal therapy he received at UConn Health.

This December, as a COVID-19 patient high-risk for severe disease progression and hospitalization, McDowell was one of the first patients at UConn John Dempsey Hospital to receive an outpatient monoclonal antibody infusion.

Clarence McDowell.

The monoclonal therapies, which are laboratory-designed proteins, work by mimicking the immune system to help fight off the COVID-19 virus by blocking its attachment and entry into cells.

While living with heart failure, he fought a successful battle against the COVID-19 virus with UConn Health’s help.

“It first felt like I was catching the flu,” shared McDowell who first began experiencing shortness of breath and headache symptoms on Dec. 7, along with the tell-tale COVID-19 symptom of losing his ability to taste and smell.

The very next day at his UConn Health doctor’s appointment he tested positive for COVID-19.

“I got scared,” shared McDowell who reports being overweight and having congestive heart failure making him high-risk for COVID-19 complications.

“I thought I was going to die,” says McDowell since his symptoms started to progress including to feverish chills that would come and go.

“I went to the ED with severe shortness of breath, and I started to panic,” says McDowell.

But within hours help was on the way.

“Within 6 hours I got a phone call from UConn Health offering me new monoclonal antibody therapy,” says McDowell.

He says his symptoms of shortness of breath and chills continued initially post-infusion, but he could tell the severity of his symptoms was starting to go away.

“Two days after the monoclonal antibody therapy I was back to normal!” stressed McDowell.

His message to other high-risk COVID-19 positive patients like him?

“I say get it!” says McDowell.  “A few days later I felt better.”

And he additionally shared his personal recommendation about the new COVID-19 vaccine expected to be soon on the way for high-risk patients.

“Oh yes. I say get it too!” says McDowell who looks forward to the COVID-19 vaccine’s protective effects against the virus and severe disease progression.

Thanks to UConn Health and its new innovative COVID-19 care offerings McDowell is truly looking forward to the holidays.

“I sure am, a holiday with my family.”

The week of Dec. 7 marked a major milestone for UConn John Dempsey Hospital with its first COVID-19 outpatients successfully receiving monoclonal antibody therapies, recently authorized by the FDA for emergency use.

“It’s really nice to be able to offer high-risk COVID-19 patients like Mr. McDowell the latest innovative care options at UConn Health,” said Dr. Kevin Dieckhaus, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases. “Our UConn Health community really worked together to open the new monoclonal antibody infusion unit very quickly.”

His team at UConn Health is now offering qualifying non-hospitalized COVID-19 outpatients either bamlanivimab or a combination of casirivimab and imdevimab. Currently, only patients at increased mortality risk are being considered for monoclonal therapy infusion at UConn Health.

The outpatient monoclonal antibody infusions are taking place at the newly established Therapeutic Infusion Center on the hospital’s fourth floor. Each qualifying outpatient receives the one hour infusion intravenously and is observed for a minimum of one hour post-infusion.

For more information about the new monoclonal antibodies, the FDA has provided these fact sheets about bamlanivimab for health care providers and patients and caregivers, and for casirivimab and imdevimab for providers and patients and caregivers.