BRISBANE, Calif. (KGO) -- The novel coronavirus has created a serious risk to a small but very vulnerable segment of our population - transplant patients.
They are given immune-suppressing drugs to prevent organ rejection. A Bay Area company has come up with an innovative system to monitor them without leaving their homes.
Modesto resident Shawn Sousa had successful heart transplant surgery five months ago. Shortly after going home, COVID-19 emerged, posing a serious infection threat.
RELATED: South Bay company uses delivery robots to help health care workers battle COVID-19
He needs frequent blood tests to monitor for organ rejection, but going to a hospital lab is something transplant patients fear.
"At a lab there's probably other people there that are sick," said Sousa. "They're getting their blood drawn for a reason, so it's always nice not to have to go to the hospital."
An ideal solution was developed by Brisbane-based CareDx, which has a system in which mobile phlebotomists, or blood technicians, do at-home blood draws wearing masks, shields and other protective gear. Kiran Khush is a transplant cardiologist at Stanford Health Care.
"If we don't have these regular blood draws, it's possible if their immunosuppressant drug levels are too law, they could be at risk for rejection, and if the levels are too high, that can adversely affect the liver and kidney function," Dr. Khush explained.
RELATED: Hospitals to resume necessary surgeries, ease patients' COVID-19 fears
Heart transplants were done on more than 2,100 adults and 348 children in the U.S. last year.
While the number is relatively low, those patients are among the most at-risk for COVID-19 infections. Shawn Sousa says it dominates talk among his network of fellow transplant patients.
The CEO of CareDx, which created the RemoTrac service, considers it a lifesaver.
"Having a very simple, at-home solution where you can get the blood draw done and then the result goes back to the transplant center and they can stratify what to do next is incredibly important," said Peter Maag. "Transplant patients are very worried right now."
The service is covered by insurance.
If you have a question or comment about the coronavirus pandemic, submit yours via the form below or here.
Get the latest news, information and videos about the novel coronavirus pandemic here
RELATED STORIES & VIDEOS:
- Live updates about coronavirus outbreak in US,around the world
- Coronavirus data: See how the curve of COVID-19 cases is bending in each Bay Area county
- Everything you need to know about the Bay Area's shelter-in-place order
- Coronavirus Doctor's Note: Dr. Alok Patel gives his insight into COVID-19 pandemic
- Stimulus calculator: How much money should you expect from coronavirus relief bill
- WATCH: ABC7's interactive town hall 'Race and Coronavirus: A Bay Area Conversation'
- What Bay Area tenants need to know about rent payments, eviction amid COVID-19 outbreak
- Here's how shelter in place, stay at home orders can slow spread of COVID-19
- Coronavirus Timeline: Tracking major moments of COVID-19 pandemic in San Francisco Bay Area/
- Coronavirus and the new normal of livingin the San Francisco-Bay Area -- COVID-19 Diaries
- Happy hour goes virtual as people try to be sociable while social distancing during COVID-19 crisis
- Coronavirus Outbreak: Here's why you should practice 'social distancing'
- DRONEVIEW7: What the Bay Area looks like during the coronavirus shelter-in-place
- ABC7's drive around San Francisco shows empty streets, businesses shuttered
- Symptoms, prevention, and how to prepare for a COVID-19 outbreak in the US
- List of stores, companies closing due to coronavirus pandemic
- Canceled late fees, free services available amid COVID-19 crisis
- Here's how you can help during COVID-19 pandemic
- How to maintain learning during school closures
- No masks but here are 100+ products that may help protect you against novel coronavirus germs
- Here's a look at some of history's worst pandemics that have killed millions
- Asian community fighting racism, xenophobia, bigotry as world fights COVID-19