The first COVID-19 patient in the U.S. who underwent a double lung transplant was discharged from hospital this week, according to news reports.
after coronavirus caused irreversible lung damage, 28-year-old Mayra Ramirez underwent a transplant on June 5, Live Science previously reported. To qualify for the procedure, she first had to test negatively for it virus, as transplant patients should take medications that suppress immunity after surgery. Medications prevent the body from accepting the new organ, but the hobby immune systemthe ability to fight an active infection.
“After Mayra̵7;s body cleared the virus, it became clear that the lung damage would not heal, and we had to list it for a lung transplant, “Dr. Beth Malsin, a pulmonary and critical care specialist at North-West Memorial Hospital, said in a statement. Ramirez got her new lungs two days later.
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Ramirez woke up after 10 hours of surgery with “all these tubes” coming out of it – “I just could not recognize my body,” she told New York Times. Before the operation, Ramirez spent six weeks in Intensive care unit (ICU) in a ventilator and an extracorporeal membrane oxygenator (ECMO), which pumps oxygenated blood through the body when the heart and lungs cannot do it alone.
“I do not remember anything during my six weeks at ICU COVID. When I finally woke up, it was mid-June and I did not know why I was in the hospital bed,” Ramirez said in a statement from Northwestern. When she finally woke up, her nurses asked her if she knew the date and Ramirez thought it was early May, according to the Times. She was able to return home on July 29th.
Ramirez should take rejection medication for the rest of her life, but because she is young and healthy, “she will continue to get stronger and stronger,” said her surgeon Dr Ankit Bharat for the New York Times. After lung transplantation, more than 85% to 90% of patients survive one year and can function independently in daily life, Live Science previously reported. About 50% of lung transplant recipients survive for at least five years after the procedure, and there have been reports of some people living 20 years or more, according to UK National Health Service.
“She asked him if he could go by parachute. We will probably get there in a few months,” Bharat told Ramirez.
Following Ramirez’s transplant, Northwestern performed a second double lung transplant for Brian Kuhns, a 62-year-old coronavirus patient.
“Mayra and Brian would not be alive today without lung transplants,” Bharat said in the statement. “COVID-19 completely destroyed lungs, and they were critically ill entering the transplant procedure making it a dizzying undertaking. “The procedure usually takes six to seven hours, but both Kuhns and Ramirez underwent 10-hour surgeries because there was so much inflammation and dead tissue in their lungs.
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With both Kuhns and Ramirez now in recovery, Northwestern has two additional COVID-19 patients awaiting dual lung transplants, and the hospital is advising other transplant centers on how to undergo difficult surgery, the Times reported.
“It will be a challenge for doctors to determine which patients are really candidates and for what time,” Tiago Machuca, a chest surgeon at the University of Florida Health Hospital in Gainesville, told the Times. A COVID-19 patient transferred from another state recently underwent a double lung transplant at Shands Hospital, he noted.
“We do not want to do it too early when the patient can still recover from COVID lung disease and resume with good quality of life, but also does not want to miss the boat and have a patient where it is useless, the patient is very sick, “he said.
“I think people should recognize this option earlier and just start at least talking about it before they get to that point,” he told the Bharat Times.
Originally published in Live Science.