La. Farm Bureau president released from hospital after 64 days battling COVID-19

Updated: May. 20, 2020 at 9:32 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - As of Wednesday, May 13, there were 1,194 people hospitalized statewide with COVID-19. One of them has dedicated his life to Louisiana’s farmers.

Ronnie Anderson feels most comfortable in the saddle of his horse on his family’s farm in East Feliciana Parish. He has lived there his entire life, but the longtime president of the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation just spent his 72nd birthday hooked up to a ventilator at Baton Rouge General. He has now been hospitalized for 57 days.

“I had no idea it would be this long,” Ronnie’s wife, Vivian Anderson, said. “I was just prepared to spend the night or a few days and think he’d probably be on oxygen, and then we’d be back home.”

For nearly two months now, the family has only been able to talk to Ronnie using FaceTime. At one point, doctors told Vivian to prepare her husband’s will and call her children.

“He was very, very sick, requiring paralysis to be able to oxygenate him. He was about as sick as they could get,” said Dr. Michael Sanchez, assistant professor of clinical medicine at LSU Health Sciences.

Sanchez treated Anderson before he was stabilized and transferred to BRG’s Mid City location. He says Anderson improved significantly after getting a convalescent plasma transfusion with COVID-19 antibodies.

“After getting the first dose, he started being more alert and started being more active in participating with physical therapy and has subsequently continued to get better,” Dr. Sanchez said.

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It turns out the team at BRG did not have to go very far to get that plasma.

“The first day they opened up the [antibody] testing, we were there that morning, got our test done, takes probably ten minutes,” Ron Anderson, Ronnie’s son, said.

Ronnie's family says the first thing he's going to do when he's released from the hospital is...
Ronnie's family says the first thing he's going to do when he's released from the hospital is look at his cows.(WAFB)

He and Vivian had already recovered from the coronavirus and they jumped at the chance to put their blood to good use.

“To be able to donate the plasma to help Ronnie, or to help anyone, is just an incredible feeling,” Vivian said.

“You feel helpless for so long. It’s like, okay, I can finally do something to help my dad and help whomever else may need it,” Ron added.

Doctors say they still have a lot to learn about plasma therapy for COVID-19, but so far, the signs are encouraging.

“We think that the science is good for it, but we don’t necessarily know when the right time or the right patients are to use it in,” Dr. Sanchez said.

The Anderson family is hopeful Ronnie will back on his favorite horse soon, and they believe the plasma therapy has played a big part in his recovery. Now, they want other COVID-19 survivors to do their part.

“I just urge anyone that can donate to do so because the need is there. The supply is not,” Vivian said.

Plasma donors must have proof of their positive COVID-19 test and they must be fully recovered. Contact LifeShare Blood Center at 225-383-7728 if you’d like to donate.

Officials with Baton Rouge General say Anderson was released from the hospital Wednesday, May 20 after spending 64 days fighting COVID-19. He was greeted by his family, including his wife and son. He’ll continue to recover and work on physical rehab at a long-term acute care facility, BRG officials say.

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