A young woman whose lungs were destroyed beyond repair of the new coronavirus received a new set of lungs at Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital last week, her doctor announced Thursday. It is reportedly the first time a COVID-19 patient in the United States has undergone a double lung transplant.
Dr. Ankit Bharat, who performed the operation, told reporters that the woman – who was in her 20s and had no serious underlying medical conditions before being hit by COVID-19 – had some of the most injured lungs he had ever seen.
The virus had left her lungs full of holes and “completely plastered to the tissue around them, the heart, chest wall and diaphragm,”
Without the transplant, the woman – who spent almost two months on a ventilator and heart-lung machine before surgery – would have died, he said.
Bharat said the 10-hour operation, which took place last Friday, was more challenging and took longer than usual because of how damaged the woman’s lungs were. The transplant was still a success, he said, and the patient – although still on a ventilator – recovered well.
“Yesterday she smiled and told me just one sentence,” Bharat told the Chicago Tribune. “Thank you for not giving me up.”
Doctors have hailed the lung transplant as an “important development” in the fight against COVID-19.
While not an appropriate treatment option for all patients, lung transplants may be an option for some – especially younger patients with minimal underlying health conditions who maintain irreversible lung damage due to the virus, Bharat said. As the Associated Press noted, a handful of survivors of COVID-19 in China and Europe have managed to get new lungs.
Bharat said other medical centers around the country have reached out to find out more about the procedure.
“This is an important development that can help a number of patients who have suffered severe and irreversible lung damage as a result of COVID-19,” he said according to the Tribune.
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