TAMPA, Fla. — When Christopher Lee Denson fell ill with COVID-19, he said breathing felt like taking a breath through a paper bag with a toothpick-sized hole. But now looking back nearly a year since his battle, he said his cure was like a breath of fresh air.
“I’m just glad I’m here to tell my story so I can help other people,” Denson said.
Denson said he ended up in the ICU at Tampa General Hospital. That’s where he became part of a monoclonal antibodies trial last summer.
“I really didn’t know what it was, all I knew was nothing could hurt I was already hurt,” he said. “I was just feeling like I was on my way out so I really didn’t know what it was, I really didn't know what it was going to do but like I said it was worth a try.”
He said he quickly started feeling better, crediting Dr. Kami Kim with saving his life.
Kim said since November, more than 900 patients have received monoclonal antibodies. USF and TGH have a joint infusion clinic for the treatment.
While results from clinical research studies haven’t been published yet, researchers with TGH and USF published a paper with what they’re learning about the treatment in the journal Open Forum Infectious Diseases.
“These monoclonal antibodies when given early on so when people are within a week of getting their symptoms it kept people out of the hospital,” Kim said. “So they improved quickly they didn’t have to go into the hospital so that obviously is great news and it also looks like these are life-saving in that we also had fewer deaths.”
Kim said the idea is good antibodies will help prevent serious diseases, like vaccines, but points to the number of people not vaccinated.
“Science is working and that we’ve got these great drugs that can help treat COVID if you didn’t get the vaccine. But don’t get COVID, go get the vaccine,” Kim said.
She said the news has in ways shifted advice physicians may give.
“So now particularly if you’re medically vulnerable, have diabetes, things like that, but probably pretty much for everybody, if you develop symptoms, you should probably investigate getting the monoclonal antibody because giving it two or three days into symptoms works much better than getting it a week after symptoms,” Kim said.
Denson said he had nearly every COVID symptom. So when he left the hospital, he bought Superman socks, a reflection of the superpower he felt he was given. He still wears them.
“All I can say is it’s a blessing because it could have been anybody but me and I’m just glad I was part of the program and I’m here now to tell it,” he said.