Missouri COVID-19 survivor reunites with doctors, nurses months after being on a ventilator

Shakell Avery.png
Posted at 8:58 PM, Jun 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-30 23:22:23-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Shakell Avery spent weeks on a ventilator at Menorah Medical Center, fighting the novel coronavirus. His family didn’t know if he would make it and neither did his doctors or his nurses.

Months later, Avery returned to the hospital walking and talking, thanking those who helped care for him.

“You all brought me back to my family," the father of one said. "I look at you guys as a family as well."

Sara Stremel was one of the nurses who cared for Avery.

“Hearing him speak is one thing and to see him stand and takes steps is beyond something we thought we would ever even see,” Stremel said.

Doctors credit plasma for helping save Avery’s life. The 23-year-old became one of the first patients in the region to receive convalescent serum therapy clinical transfusion. The plasma was donated from a fully recovered COVID-19 patient in New York City.

Doctors at Menorah Medical Center collaborated with physician specialists at Research Medical Center to make it happen.

“At night, when they don’t have their family, you become that family," Jessica Knox, Avery's night nurse, said. "You are person listening to them. You are the person staring in their eyes."

Since Avery, doctors have used convalescent serum therapy clinical transfusions on about 25 patients. They said transfusing plasma early, within the first week of a coronavirus diagnosis, is the most effective.

“I’m here to tell you [coronavirus] is not a joke," Avery said, begging those who have recovered from the virus to donate plasma. "It’s definitely not a game or anything you want to go through. You’re saving someone’s life. Somebody saved mine.”