TROY — Troy resident and respiratory therapist Amy De Vos recently made a seemingly miraculous recovery from coronavirus, or COVID-19, after spending over two weeks on a ventilator fighting for her life. De Vos credits her recovery to a trial drug, called Soliris, in addition to a dedicated team of doctors and nurses.
De Vos, 45, is a mother of three and wife to Thomas De Vos. On March 19, she decided to go to the hospital as she was experiencing shortness of breath.
“I couldn’t breathe, and I’ve never had breathing issues before,” De Vos said. “I was taken up to a room, and I was trying to fake that I could breathe because I knew I was probably going to be intubated and I did not want that.”
Soon after, De Vos was taken to the Intensive Care Unit at Upper Valley Medical Center, where she was in fact put on a ventilator.
“I was ready to be intubated at that point because I felt so horrible,” she said. “After that, I didn’t remember much of anything for 16 days while I was intubated.”
Just three days later, on March 23, De Vos’ condition had worsened.
According to her attending physician at UVMC, Dr. Eleina Mikhaylov, De Vos’ prognosis was grim. She was essentially “maxed out” on all medications that could be given, and had suffered a seizure that day, according to the doctor.
Mikhaylov met with De Vos’ family to inform them of the outlook.
“Honestly, I wished that I could give them more comfort, but I couldn’t knowing the state that she was in,” Mikhaylov said. “I felt their heartbreak when I was in the room with them and I felt it very deeply.”
That same day, De Vos’ family visited her for what they thought might be the last time.
“They told us that she was too critical and that she probably was not going to make it, so we all went in the room — me, her mom, her kids, her brother — and it was very emotional,” said Thomas De Vos, Amy’s husband. “It was like being in a nightmare.”
Mikhaylov said she continued on that day with her normal rounds at work, but could not stop thinking about De Vos. That’s when she remembered reading about a doctor who was initiating a drug trial for the treatment of coronavirus. She then made a call to Dr. Tom Pitts, a neurologist in New York and Wright State alum.
“Not only did this therapy make sense, but I also know Dr. Pitts very well and I trust him, not only as a physician, but as someone who would go above and beyond to help someone, to improve their quality of life, and even save somebody’s life,” Mikhaylov said.
Pitts told Mikhaylov he had received FDA approval for the trial, and that he was looking for an appropriate first patient to administer the medication. He quickly agreed that De Vos was a good candidate.
“That night, around 9 o’clock, I was just laying on the couch staring in front of me, feeling hopeless when I got a phone call from Dr. Pitts, who said they wanted to enroll her in a trial with Soliris,” said Thomas De Vos. “At first, I couldn’t believe it. I was willing to try anything since her situation was so dire, so I gave my consent and then the ball started rolling.”
After receiving approval from the hospital, Pitts and Mikhaylov organized a transport of the medication from Miami Valley Hospital to UVMC, with the first dose being administered to De Vos that same day.
“I think around 10 p.m., she got the medicine and after that, she started improving,” Thomas said. “It was just a miracle.”
After 16 days on a ventilator, De Vos was extubated and able to breathe on her own.
“People started coming to see me and they were so excited to see me and I had no idea why,” De Vos, who is now home recovering, said. “I started hearing what happened and realized the extent of everything I went through. Even when I think about it now, I just can’t believe it. I just feel lucky.”
Pitts said his trial, which is classified as a “pilot study,” is now closed.
“Where we stand today is that it has now been moved to an FDA-approved expanded access trial for which we are currently gearing up at major institutions to enroll basically as a policy of that hospital, so that if you hit these criteria, without having a Dr. Mikhaylov-style call, (Soliris) would just be offered to you by the hospital,” Pitts said.
De Vos had previously been taking an immunosuppresive drug that’s recently been touted as a possible treatment for coronavirus, called Plaquenil, or hydroxychloroquine, which had been prescribed as treatment for Lupus, which De Vos was diagnosed with in 2017.
According to Pitts, De Vos was taken off this medication while in the hospital.
“Hydroxychloriquine had been on board for a long time,” Pitts said. “It’s not like she got it like other COVID patients where (the hospital) gave it to her; she was on it for Lupus for quite some time,” Pitts said. “The first thing is that it didn’t work, or at least it didn’t prevent her from ending up on the ventilator.”
Pitts added that De Vos’ intake of Plaquenil was discontinued by UVMC infectious disease doctor Ronal Manis, as he suspected it may be contributing to an anemia, or low red blood cell count, which are the cells responsible for carrying oxygen through the body.
De Vos, who works as a respiratory therapist through UVMC at an extended care facility, said she does plan to return to work eventually, but that she has a long road ahead of her, which will include physical and occupational therapy. She said she is also dealing with some short term memory loss.
De Vos expressed her gratitude for the doctors who streamlined her recovery.
“I received the miracle of a lifetime from Dr. Mikhaylov and Dr. Pitts,” she said.