Last March, as he lay in a hospital bed at VCU Medical Center, Billy Brooks thought COVID-19 would kill him. That didn’t happen, and Brooks credits an experimental treatment for saving his life.

Brooks was the first COVID-19 patient at VCU Health to receive convalescent plasma — a treatment in which the plasma of someone who’s recovered from COVID-19 is transfused into someone who’s still sick. The hope is that the antibodies in the donor plasma will attack the coronavirus.

At the time, Brooks had been in a medically induced coma for 14 days and was on a ventilator. Doctors had struggled to combat his high fever and breathing difficulties, and they hoped the convalescent plasma would help.