A Chicago woman received a double lung transplant after a bout with coronavirus wreaked damage on the organs, the hospital announced Thursday.
The patient, a Hispanic woman in her 20s, was on a ventilator and heart-lung machine for six weeks before her life-saving operation Friday, according to Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
The woman had been otherwise in pretty healthy shape, but her health rapidly deteriorated when she was hospitalized in late April with the virus, doctors said.
“For many days, she was the sickest person in the COVID ICU – and possibly the entire hospital,” said Dr. Beth Malsin, a pulmonary and critical care specialist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in a statement.
“There were so many times, day and night, our team had to react quickly to help her oxygenation and support her other organs to make sure they were healthy enough to support a transplant if and when the opportunity came.”
Dr. Ankit Bharat, who performed the operation, said they waited six weeks for her to recover from the virus before considering a transplant.
She was moved to the top of the transplant list because she was in bad shape, with signs that her heart, kidneys and liver were beginning to fail, he said.
Bharat said the 10-hour procedure was still challenging since the virus left her lungs with holes and nearly fused to the chest wall.
“We want other transplant centers to know that while the transplant procedure in these patients is quite technically challenging, it can be done safely, and it offers the terminally ill COVID-19 patients another option for survival,” Bharat said in a statement.
The operation was successful but doctors say they will still keep her ventilator and heart-lung machine as her body heals.
“We are anticipating that she will have a full recovery,” said Dr. Rade Tomic, medical director of the hospital’s lung transplant program.
The hospital said it believes it’s one of the first to perform a double-lung transplant on a patient recovering from the virus. There have only been a few other survivors, in China and Europe, who have received the transplants.
Doctors said they now want to better understand why she became so severely ill compared to other cases of the virus.
“How did a healthy woman in her 20s get to this point? There’s still so much we have yet to learn about COVID-19. Why are some cases worse than others?” said Dr. Rade Tomic, a pulmonologist and medical director of the Lung Transplant Program.
With Post wires