Alabama doctor on COVID-19 treatment: ‘I wouldn’t be able to look myself in the mirror if I ran away’ – Community News
Covid-19

Alabama doctor on COVID-19 treatment: ‘I wouldn’t be able to look myself in the mirror if I ran away’

This story is part of AL.com“21 Alabamians Who Made a Difference in 2021,” highlighting people who made our state a better place to live this year. Stories in this series will be published every day from December 5 to December 31. Find all stories in the series as they publish here, and read about the Alabamans who made a difference in 2020 by clicking here.

Montgomery-based pulmonologist Dr. David Thrasher saw the potential for monoclonal antibody treatment early in the pandemic.

When Alabama’s first known COVID-19 patients were hospitalized, several were transferred to Thrasher’s care. An 87-year-old male patient appeared to be on the brink of death. Thrasher offered the man a monoclonal antibody infusion, at the time a COVID-19 treatment with many unknowns.

“He hadn’t been out of bed in three days. He looked like he could turn around and die. I said, ‘Oh my god, I’m going to give the first dose of this thing, and I’m going to kill this man,’ Thrasher said.

Days later, Dr. Thrasher the man’s wife to see how he was doing.

“She said, ‘Yeah, he’s chopping wood outside,’ and I said, ‘Hey,’ so that got my attention.”

The treatment, which Thrasher has heralded as the “answer” to state hospitalizations from COVID-19, is being given as both an IV and an injection. It is a synthetic protein that helps the body build immunity against COVID-19 and is highly effective in preventing death from COVID-19.

Since 2020, Dr. Thrasher worked tirelessly with public health officials, politicians and doctors to push monoclonal antibodies across Alabama, save thousands of lives during the pandemic and prevent a worse crisis for Alabama’s hospitals, already overwhelmed during the recent Delta wave.

“As I’ve often told people, ‘Call me, call me at night. Text me,’ he said. ‘Don’t wait for you to collapse. Don’t try to harden it. That’s how you’ll die,’ he said.

Thanks in part to Thrasher’s advocacy and expertise, the state has established a network of monoclonal antibody infusion centers and armed physicians nationwide with antibody injection supplies, which, according to Thrasher, has led to more than 105,000 monoclonal antibody treatments statewide.

Thrasher received awards from Governor Kay Ivey and Auburn University for his leadership role. In addition to educating Alabamians about monoclonal antibodies and the dangers of steroid treatments during certain periods of time in the course of the disease. During the pandemic, he volunteered to raise money for personal protective equipment and meals for hospital staff, and advised cities, businesses and schools on the dangers of COVID-19.

“It’s brought out the best in people, the health care workers, the nurses, respiratory therapists, they work so hard,” he said. “I can’t brag enough about them.”

A global pandemic like COVID-19 is a scenario health professionals like Thrasher have feared for decades. In early 2020, Thrasher planned to retire. Now he feels he cannot “leave a hole in the state” during COVID.

“We all had to learn about this new disease very quickly,” he said.

“It was a very scary time. we didn’t know how it was being transmitted and we didn’t have the equipment to protect ourselves.”

Thrasher said he has personally given about 3,000 monoclonal antibody treatments.

“Had we not had the monoclonal antibodies, it would have been a catastrophe for Alabama and the nation,” he said.

To combat viral misinformation about COVID-19, Thrasher has used social media for the first time in his life. His posts have been shared thousands of times and hundreds of people have asked for help.

“I get text messages, I get emails. On Facebook. I say, ‘I can’t give medical advice,'” he said. “Still, people will message me, ‘My son is dying, my mother has COVID. I don’t know what to do,’ and I’ll go ahead, I’ll call them,” Thrasher said.

Thrasher has given his cell phone number to hundreds of people across the country, despite his wife’s protests that he is resting. At one point in the pandemic, he called 100 people a day to answer their questions, from getting the vaccine, to whether COVID could be spread by dogs, to how to save the life of a loved one.

“I wouldn’t be able to look at myself in the mirror if I walked away and let people die.”

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