‘Without the plasma, I’d be dead’: Experimental procedure allows Central Florida dad to return home after being in medically induced coma from COVID-19

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — When Kevin Rathel left Orlando Health Monday after a month, he came home to a street lined with loved ones and signs with sweet messages on them, like “Welcome Home Daddy.”

After fighting for his life against COVID-19, Rathel was treated with convalescent plasma therapy which he says saved his life.

On April 4, doctors at Orlando Health put him in a medically induced coma, not knowing if he’d ever pull through.

“I was so downhill they were like, ‘Well, he probably has a 20% chance left,” Rathel told Eyewitness News.


And yet, 16 days later, he’s back home with his wife and kids.

“I feel amazingly blessed – oh, my gosh, who wouldn’t?” Rathel said.

Rathel, 52, was the first COVID-19 patient at Orlando Health to be infused with convalescent plasma, which comes from a person who’s already recovered from COVID-19. He has the antibodies that know how to fight the virus off.

“Without the plasma, I’d be dead,” Rathel said.

Read: COVID-19 patient receives first convalescent plasma infusion at Orlando Health ORMC

Rathel’s wife Stacie took to social media to find him a donor. That’s when a stranger, James Crocker, stepped up.

“As soon as a friend texted me a picture of a friend, and I saw Kevin and Stacie and Lauren and Cole and Grayson – that’s the moment I knew I had to get off the couch and go,” he said.

Read: Coronavirus: ‘Convalescent plasma’ study to begin at Massachusetts hospital

Four days after the transfusion, Rathel woke up. It was Easter Sunday.

“Just how things came together - it was truly a miracle every step of the way,” Stacie said.

Rathel’s doctors said it’s unclear right now if in fact it was the plasma that saved his life, but it did appear “he wasn’t making any progress in terms of getting any better until after the convalescent plasma was given. His numbers started to improve,” Dr. Mai Vo said.

“I’m just amazed that he’s going to be walking out of here,” Vo said.

Rathel says he still feels a bit weak, but has the strength to hug his kids.

He and his wife wanted to share their story to encourage others to donate plasma if possible. Click here to learn how to donate.

“There’s just too many families out there going through what we went through,” Stacie said.

Orlando Health says they’ve infused five patients with convalescent plasma. Three more are awaiting matches.

Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.