Aurora BayCare Medical Center site of Auxora clinical trial

Health Watch

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – Kathy Heffern’s garden is a testament to her love of the outdoors.

“I’m a rather active person,” said Heffern.

So when her energy started wilting, she knew something was wrong.

“I was tired all the time, had difficulty even walking from room to room,” Heffern explained.

Even then she admits, it took some prodding from her husband to get her to the doctor.

“I had to be pushed, “Heffern admits. “I think it’s a mental thing. You don’t want to be sick, you don’t want this to be happening.” 

But it was happening.  Two days after testing positive for COVID 19, Heffern was admitted to the hospital.

“Her O2 (oxygen) requirements started to increase at a rate that was worrisome and  after a year of the pandemic, now I know that’s not good,” said Dr. Raul Mendoza, a pulmonologist with Aurora BayCare Medical Center.

Heffern was developing what is sometimes called COVID-19 pneumonia a more severe, life-threatening pneumonia or ARDS (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome) 

 “ARDS is the most severe form of the COVID- 19 pneumonia,” said Mendoza.

Time was of the essence when Mendoza asked Heffern a crucial question.

“Dr. Mendoza came in and explained that there was this drug trial that involved around 400 people throughout the U.S.,” Heffen recalled.

Heffern was in the right place. Aurora BayCare is one of only 40 only healthcare systems nationwide, and the only one in Wisconsin, participating in a clinical trial for Auxora, a potential new therapy for patients with severe COVID -19 pneumonia.

“This is Green Bay, Wisconsin. We’re a small town, but we have a big heart and we demonstrated that we can do things the right way,” Mendoza said.  He added that participation in this clinical trial will help Aurora BayCare stand out when other companies are looking for facilities to do other drug trials.

Heffern was one of only 10 patients from Wisconsin currently enrolled in the study.

“There was no hesitation,” she said. “Anything to help. Anything to make me feel better.”

Heffern started the three day IV infusion treatment.

“The second day I was already feeling better,” Heffern said.

Because the trial is a double blind study, neither Heffern or Mendoza know for sure if she got the drug or a placebo.  But Mendoza  says Heffern’s recovery was astounding.

“180 degree improvement,” said Mendoza.

Back at home, Heffern is anxious to get back into the swing of things, but her family is there to remind her, she’s still got some recovering to do.

“My husband’s trying to keep me down, my kids are trying to keep me down, it’s like ‘Ma, just wait!,” Heffern said with a smile.

To learn more you can call AuroraBayCare at 866-938-0035 or email:

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