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Orlando Man Who Got Plasma Treatment From COVID-19 Patient Is Off The Ventilator

Stacie Rathel chats with her husband, Michael Kevin Rathel, who got an experimental treatment for COVID-19 plasma, and antibodies, of someone who had recovered from the virus.
Courtesy of Stacie Rathel
The Florida Channel
Stacie Rathel chats with her husband, Michael Kevin Rathel, who got an experimental treatment for COVID-19 plasma, and antibodies, of someone who had recovered from the virus.

Last week, Michael Kevin Rathel got a transfusion of convalescent plasma: a blood donation from someone who has recovered from COVID-19.

At the time, the 52-year-old retired lawyer was on a ventilator, turned on his stomach. A week after the plasma, he got discharged out of Orlando Regional Medical Center’s intensive care unit to a regular unit.

Health News Florida's Abe Aboraya spoke with his wife, Stacie Rathel.

ABORAYA: So at this point, he’s no longer on the ventilator, then?

STACIE RATHEL: That’s correct. That has been amazing to see. He’s able to talk to us. We weren’t really sure what to expect, because they told us his voice could be a little different. He sounded weak, and he is weak. His whole body is weak. He’s a little mentally weak. But no, I was surprised at how remarkably strong he sounded.

Listen to an interview with Stacie Rathel about how her husband got the convalescent plasma treatment

ABORAYA: Tell us a little bit about what kind of spirits he’s in and how he’s handling what was obviously difficult situation, even if he doesn’t remember?

Michael Kevin Rathel, who got an experimental treatment for COVID-19 plasma, and antibodies, of someone who had recovered from the virus.
Credit Courtesy of Stacie Rathel
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

STACIE RATHEL: He doesn’t really remember, but he’s very emotional. He just thinks it’s been mostly family and friends that have been praying for him. So I want to gradually introduce him to what’s happened in the last two weeks. His spirits are good, but again, he’s very frail, he’s very vulnerable. So there are those moments when he gets teary-eyed. He said he was very worried about us. And I said, “we are taken care of, people have been loving on us and bringing us meals, you absolutely don’t need to worry about us.” And he started crying.

ABORAYA: Have you told him that he was able to get the convalescent plasma from someone who had already beaten COVID-19?

STACIE RATHEL: I did explain that part to him. And I said, “Do you realize what that means? It means his antibodies were helping to fight that battle inside your body.” So I did also explain to him how we came about getting that plasma donor that he drove up from South Florida, and he gets teary eyed.

ABORAYA: Do you think at this point that yourself or your husband or other people in your family might also donate plasma to try and help others that might be in a similar situation?

STACIE RATHEL: 100 percent. 100 percent. As it is right now, only my husband and I will be able to donate that plasma. But we’re really hoping that there will be strides made in the FDA guidelines that currently binds the blood bank. So you have to have that positive test, and then a negative test and 14 days asymptomatic. A lot of people don’t have that positive test. As it stands right now, even my children will not be able to donate plasma, and they are chomping at the bit to do so.

ABORAYA: How much weight do you give to the convalescent plasma in your in your husband’s recovery? Because he is young and statistically the people that are in his age range tend to recover. So how do you know that the convalescent plasma played a role? Or does that even really matter to you?

STACIE RATHEL: It doesn’t matter in the big scheme of things. Because the fact that he’s better, yes, that is the important thing. But I have a curious mind. And I have a need strong need to know, just to satisfy myself. I felt all along – I felt I was being driven to this option as a solution for us. That’s why I was dogged about him doing it. I asked the doctors continually. Okay. Any little sign of improvement: What do you think? Do you think that’s from the plasma? They do think that it was effective, but it’s a guessing game. We just don’t know the percentage.

Recovered from COVID-19 and want to donate plasma? Visit OneBlood website.

WMFE is a partner with Health News Florida, a statewide collaborative reporting on health care.

Health News Florida reporter Abe Aboraya works for WMFE in Orlando. He started writing for newspapers in high school. After graduating from the University of Central Florida in 2007, he spent a year traveling and working as a freelance reporter for the Seattle Times and the Seattle Weekly, and working for local news websites in the San Francisco Bay area. Most recently Abe worked as a reporter for the Orlando Business Journal. He comes from a family of health care workers.