Mayra Ramirez says she was careful to follow all the health measures she could before the day she was admitted to a Chicago hospital with coronavirus symptoms.
The 28-year-old arrived at Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s emergency room on April 26 and within minutes – which gave her barely enough time to call her family – her upsetting experience began.
“All I remember was falling asleep when I was intubated and then six weeks of complete nightmares,” she told CNN. “Some of the nightmares were a lot of drowning and I attribute that I could not breathe.”
Coronavirus had taken a fatal toll on her body: her lungs had been irreversibly damaged and other organs began to fail, she said. After Ramirez spent more than a month on a ventilator, her family flew from North Carolina to say a final goodbye after she said doctors announced they were unsure if she would survive.
There was an alternative to saving her life: a double-lung transplant.
“Without the transplant, she would not have done it,” says Dr. Ankit Bharat, head of thoracic surgery at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago, added that Ramirez had several complications associated with the virus.
The fact that she was young and otherwise would have been healthy, he says, made her a good candidate for the rare procedure.
“I looked at myself and could not recognize my own body,” Ramirez said after waking up in the hospital after her procedure. “I could not talk, I could barely lift a finger, I could not move. I was in a lot of pain, I was very confused.”
Ramirez is now the first known American to undergo the procedure after a battle with coronavirus, according to a news release from Northwestern Medicine. It is now almost two months since the operation and she has recovered at home. She says she is still weak and struggling to breathe.
She is one of more than 4.6 million Americans who have been infected with coronavirus. At least 154,860 people have died.
“This is not a hoax,” she said. “This virus is real, it happened to me.”
Video: recipients with double lung transplants describe the fight against viruses (CNN)