Washington's antibody treatment studies could be game changer in fight against COVID-19

SEATTLE -- A Life Care Center nurse who recovered from COVID-19 is now part of a pivotal study that could be a breakthrough in the fight against the virus.

Sheila Julich is a woman on a mission. What she is giving up at Bloodworks Northwest in Seattle on Friday could lead to answers the world desperately needs to fight off COVID-19.

“If you have the ability to save why wouldn’t you want to do it,” Julich said.

That desire to save lives is in Julich’s DNA. She’s been a nurse for decades most recently at Life Care in Kirkland, the nursing facility that was the first epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the US.

Julich says she came down with symptoms in late February. She tested positive for COVID-19 and felt sick with various symptoms including a fever.

“The whole time I felt guilty at home that I couldn’t be with my residents,” Julich said.

Julich is heartbroken over the dozens of people associated with Life Care who have died.

“I was used to being with them when they passed away and held their hand I knew a lot of them were going so that was hard,” Julich said.

Now she’s channeling that grief into action. Since the 79 year-old has recovered from virus she now has antibodies in her blood that could be transferred to others severely sick in the hospital unable to fight off the virus.

“Our hope is that it will directly save lives it’s not totally proven we have to prove it,” Dr. Becky Haley with Bloodworks NW said.

Dr. Haley who is working with other researchers at places like UW Medicine says the antibody study is very promising and they need more donors. Antibody treatments are not the same as a vaccine but it could still be a gamechanger in the fight against the virus if deemed successful.

“NIH is planning to use some of the plasma that has large amounts of antibodies and concentrate it and so they will have pharmaceutical vials,” Haley said.

If they can prove that people’s immunities can be used successfully on others to defend against the coronavirus, the treatment could be used on a large scale way.

The antibody treatment could also be used on frontline workers to prevent them from contracting the virus for a period of time. Dr. Haley says an antibody treatment could protect someone for around 6 weeks.

That possibility has Julich brimming with hope.

“It would make me feel wonderful from now on if I see any news of anybody getting antibodies ill think is it mine, is it mine that did it, yeah it makes me excited,” Julich said.

If you think you qualify for the study you can reach Bloodworks NW at 206 689 6689 or go to  www.bloodworksnw.org/covid19study to apply.