SEAL BEACH, Calif. — Hooked up to ventilators, overwhelmed with fatigue and pain, Samantha Mottet recalls thinking her time had come.
“I really felt the fear of death. It was very scary. It felt like I’m never going to see my family again. My parents again. How fast 55 years went,” Mottet said.
Mottet, who lives in Seal Beach, calls her recovery from COVID-19 a miracle. As a liver transplant survivor, she was a high-risk patient and at her worst in the battle against the virus, Mottet was placed in an induced coma.
She said all she could think about was her children and the pain this would cause her mom and dad.
“I really fought for them,” Mottet said as tears filled her eyes. “It was not looking good. On April 1st I was gravely ill and they were calling my family to come down from Oregon. And that’s when Dr. Yang stepped in with the Leronlimab. He calls it his hail mary.”
Mottet says her UCLA Medical Center physician, Dr. Otto Yang, asked her husband if he would sign off on an experimental treatment called Leronlimab.
Leronlimab is an artificial antibody that works to fight the virus when the body’s immune system response overreacts. It was initially developed to treat HIV.
“Within 24 hours, I needed less oxygen. And by my 55th birthday on April the 5th, they were removing the ventilator and then I was able to go home,” Mottet said.
Dr. Yang tells Spectrum News part of his role at UCLA was to come up with experimental treatments to offer COVID-19 patients like Mottet. He said at the time, back in April, he didn’t have many options.
He learned of Leronlimab through a colleague and requested it from the FDA under compassionate care.
“We don’t know for sure if the Leronlimab was what turned her around. I believe it probably did, the improvement she had after she got the drug was dramatic,” Dr. Yang said.
The drug is now being studied in a placebo-controlled clinical trial and UCLA is one of the trial sites.
Dr. Yang said not all of his patients responded to Leronlimab as well as Mottet and the trial results will offer more insight into its efficacy. But when he last read her antibody count, it was over 100,000.
“She’s about 10 times higher than the typical person’s antibodies,” Dr. Yang said.
Dr. Yang recently published a study on antibodies in COVID-19 patients in the New England Journal of Medicine, and found that antibodies fall sharply in the first three months after battling the virus, especially in mild cases of COVID-19. But Mottet was a rare exception.
“I feel like the safest person anybody can be around right now,” Mottet said.
Mottet is now back to doing all the things she enjoyed before COVID-19, but she has a completely new lease on life and is grateful to her team of doctors for risking their lives to save hers.
“I wake up every morning and thank God that he let me live,” Mottet said. “I wasn’t ready to go and I’m enjoying my adult young children and hope they get married and that I have grandchildren. And I just feel so thankful to be here.”