New Infusion Clinic Knocking Down COVID-19 with a One-Two Punch

When COVID-19 was ravaging New York City last spring, Anne Hale, RN, was on the frontline, working desperately to save lives. Today she's an emergency department nurse at Franciscan Health Olympia Fields and has new reinforcements in taking control over COVID, including monoclonal antibody treatments.   

In December, Hale led the charge to develop the Antibody Infusion Clinic at Franciscan Health Olympia Fields. The outpatient clinic serves people who test positive for COVID and are at higher risk for severe symptoms due to age or chronic conditions. "We're having great success helping people stay out of the emergency room and hospital and off ventilators," Hale says.

With their doctor's referral and within 10 days of COVID-19 symptoms starting, patients receive an infusion of an antibody medication that slows and stops the virus' growth. After the infusion, patients go home with monitoring tools made possible by the Franciscan Health Foundation that are key to keeping patients out of the hospital. 

"It's not just the medicine," Hale says. "The tools allow the patients to monitor their condition at home and help keep them out of a bad situation." 

Patients have a thermometer and a pulse oximeter to monitor vital signs, and an incentive spirometer to help keep lungs clear and working better. A nurse calls daily to check on patients and symptoms. After 36-48 hours, people are usually turning the corner. 

Maggie Zuninga, her 75-year-old parents Marcario and Dora Bernal, and 101-year-old grandmother Nieves Mendoza tested positive in January despite their best efforts to keep the virus at bay. Because Maggie, 45, and her parents have diabetes, and Nieves, who lives with the Bernals, has high blood pressure, they met the infusion criteria.  

Their range of COVID symptoms – loss of taste and smell, chills, headache and lower oxygen levels – improved quickly after their infusions. 

"My headache and chills went away the same day as the infusion. My mom's smell returned the day after hers," Maggie says. 

Dora said when her oxygen level dropped, using the incentive spirometer helped strengthen her lungs and bring the level back up to normal. 

"The tools the Franciscan Health Foundation supplies are making a difference. Together with the medication, they're helping me keep my patients safe and out of the hospital," Hale says.

Financial gifts to the Franciscan Health Foundation make programs like the Antibody Infusion Clinic possible. Your support for our COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Fund helps us respond to urgent needs and protect our community.