First Utahn to get experimental COVID-19 plasma treatment is home from the hospital

May 1, 2020, 5:38 PM
Experimental plasma COVID-19 Utah...
Dr. Brandon Webb and Dr. Davis Morris from Intermountain Healthcare discuss a promising treatment for COVID-19 patients in Utah. Donated plasma helped one woman who was in a coma to recover. (Photo: Intermountain Healthcare)
(Photo: Intermountain Healthcare)

SALT LAKE CITY – 24-year-old Cynthia Lemus is a flight attendant from Salt Lake City. And even though she is young and healthy, she had an experimental COVID-19 plasma treatment. The virus put her into a coma and on a life support machine. 

But Lemus’s story has a happy ending: she is now awake, out of the hospital, and recovering at home after becoming the first Utahn to undergo an experimental COVID-19 plasma transfusion, from another COVID-19 patient. 

Lemus is tired. But she is optimistic about making a full recovery. 

“I’m hoping, within maybe a month or two, to be fully to myself again … My body has really shown I’m a fighter,” Lemus said. 

Experimental COVID-19 plasma treatment sponsored by the FDA

She joined doctors from Intermountain Healthcare on a virtual news conference Friday to talk about the innovative plasma treatment that is giving Utahns who get severely sick with COVID-19 hope of recovery. 

The Food and Drug Administration is investigating whether plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients can help others with the virus to recover. Intermountain Health Care and the Red Cross are participating in the FDA program.

Lemus got her plasma from a COVID-19 patient in Minnesota.

The science behind the experimental COVID-19 plasma treatment

Dr. Brandon Webb, the Chair of Intermountain Healthcare’s COVID-19 Therapeutics Team, explained the science behind it. 

“The theory is that those antibodies [in the plasma] would then attach to virus particles and neutralize those virus particles, or cause them to not be able to cause the infection and tissue damage that they normally cause,” Webb said. 

How is it working? 

Dr. Webb thinks it’s too soon to say whether the treatment is successful, but it looks promising. 

Experimental COVID-19 plasma treatment looks promising

“What we can say is that it’s been safely delivered to all of the patients who have received it,” Webb said.  “And that all of the patients who’ve received it to date are in the process of recovery.” 

So far, 11 people have received the plasma transfusion and two more are scheduled to receive it. 

Those who wish to donate their plasma are encouraged to contact the American Red Cross of Utah.    

Coronavirus resources

How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronavirus is transmitted from person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
  • Get a flu shot.

Local resources

KSL Coronavirus Q&A

Utah’s Coronavirus Information

UtahState Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States

Today’s Top Stories


FILE - This undated photo provided by Merck & Co. shows their new antiviral medication molnupir...
MATTHEW PERRONE, Associated Press Health Writer

US adds second COVID-19 pill, this time from Merck

U.S. health regulators on Thursday authorized the second pill against COVID-19, providing another easy-to-use medication to battle the rising tide of omicron infections.
6 months ago
new COVID pills...
MATTHEW PERRONE Associated Press

Pfizer pill becomes 1st US-authorized home COVID treatment

U.S. health regulators authorized the first pill against COVID-19, a Pfizer drug that Americans will be able to take at home to head off the worst effects of the virus.
6 months ago
covid pill...
Curt Gresseth

Utah doctor weighs in on new COVID-19 pill you can take at home

A University of Utah doctor specializing in infectious diseases weighs the pros and cons on a new pill taken at home to treat coronavirus.
7 months ago
covid utah...
Paul Nelson

As omicron variant spreads, Utahns urged to get vaccine booster shots

With the spread of the omicron variant, Utahns are being urged to get a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot
7 months ago
COVID vaccination rates...
Heather Kelly

Utah is below the national average for COVID vaccination rates, here’s why

Utah is below the national average for COVID vaccination rates. High numbers of children in Utah are likely skewing the data. Officials encourage vaccination.
7 months ago
utah covid children...
Paul Nelson

Researchers believe ‘omicron’ variant will be in Utah, sooner or later

The Omicron variant doesn't have officials saying we should cancel Christmas plans, but masks and social distancing are still recommended.
7 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
First Utahn to get experimental COVID-19 plasma treatment is home from the hospital