coronavirus pandemic

Mass. Doctor Credits Wife, Convalescent Plasma for Coronavirus Recovery

Dr. Nick Athienites, a nephrology kidney specialist, calculated his chances of survival to be about 10%

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A Massachusetts doctor who treats patients for life-threatening illnesses, including COVID-19, recently found himself on the other side of the table when he came down with the virus.

Dr. Nick Athienites, a nephrology kidney specialist, said he credits his wife Jennifer for getting checked out and then getting on the road to recovery.

"My wife Jennifer said, 'you don't look good, let me check your temperature.' It was 105. Immediately I realized I probably had COVID," Athienites recalled.

A few days later on April 18, Athienites was rushed to Tuft's Medical Center in Boston and diagnosed with COVID-19. Four days later he was on life-support.

"My wife was contacted by the Chaplin from Tufts for prayer. And we know what that means," Athienites said.

The doctor, who treats patients on the South Shore and Brockton area, calculated his chances of survival to be about 10%. Still, he said he had too much to live for.

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"I have a 13-year old daughter. I have a wife. They're both dependent on me," he said.

An intensive care nurse, his wife knew about an experimental treatment using convalescent plasma, the part of blood containing antibodies.

"We are giving a variety of treatments almost all at once to try to save their lives," said Dr. Helen Boucher, Chief of Infectious Diseases at Tufts Medical Center. "The idea is that you give antibodies to somebody who is sick and those antibodies help fight the virus."

The problem was that plasma is hard to come by and Athienites has a rare blood type, further reducing the chance of finding a match.

"My wife posted a plea on social media and Facebook," he said.

When the post went viral and a Boston doctor saw it, a plasma match was found in Rhode Island and with no time to spare, quickly sent it to treat Athienites.

Within 24 hours, his condition improved and he was discharged several days later.

Athienites said he's so grateful, he plans to give back to help save another patient suffering from COVID-19.

"Myself and my wife we will be donors of plasma," Athienites said.

The doctor believes he contracted COVID-19 while treating patients with the virus and reusing face masks. Despite his brush with death, he says it won't stop him from doing his job again as soon as he's able.

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