Double Lung Transplants Save Lives of Sickest COVID Sufferers

By Robin Foster
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, July 30, 2020 (HealthDay Information)

Two coronavirus sufferers who turned so sick that double lung transplants have been their solely likelihood for survival at the moment are recovering from their harrowing journeys, their docs report.

Mayra Ramirez, 28, and Brian Kuhns, 62, are the primary recognized COVID-19 instances in the USA the place such a drastic process was tried, in accordance with their docs at Northwestern Drugs in Chicago.

“Mayra and Brian would not be alive in the present day with out the double lung transplants. COVID-19 utterly destroyed their lungs they usually have been critically sick going into the transplant process, making it a frightening enterprise,” mentioned Dr. Ankit Bharat, chief of thoracic surgical procedure and surgical director of the Northwestern Drugs Lung Transplant Program.

“After we opened Mayra and Brian’s chest cavities, giant elements of their lungs have been necrotic [dead] and full of an infection,” Bharat mentioned in a Northwestern information launch. “The extreme injury and irritation to the lungs had induced strain overload on the center, which additional made the surgical procedure fairly complicated. One misstep within the working room may have led to catastrophic penalties.”

“However, the success of those transplants emphasizes that surgical innovation can even play an essential function in serving to some critically sick COVID-19 sufferers,” he added.

Ramirez, a Chicago resident, was the primary to endure the complicated surgical procedure, on June 5.

Her battle with the coronavirus started within the spring: Apart from having an autoimmune illness that impacts the spinal wire and nerves of the eyes, she was wholesome and took further precautions when COVID-19 hit Illinois.

“In March, I began working from dwelling and by no means left my home,” Ramirez defined. “However in April, I contacted my physician, complaining of fatigue, continual spasms, diarrhea, and lack of style and scent. I solely had a slight temperature of 100 levels, so I monitored my signs from dwelling and stored in contact with the COVID-19 hotline on daily basis. It wasn’t till April 26 that I felt actually unhealthy and went to the emergency division. From there, the whole lot was a blur.”

Inside 10 minutes of being admitted to the hospital, Ramirez needed to be positioned on the ventilator. She spent six weeks on a ventilator and ECMO, a life help machine that does the work of the center and lungs. By early June, her lungs have been so broken that it was clear {that a} double lung transplant was her solely choice, her docs mentioned.

No reminiscence of months in ICU

“I do not bear in mind something throughout my six weeks within the COVID ICU. Once I lastly awoke, it was the center of June and I had no concept why I used to be in a hospital mattress,” Ramirez recalled. “Wiggling my toes was tough and it felt like I had misplaced a variety of cognitive skills.

“However since my transplant, there hasn’t been a single day the place I’ve taken a step again,” she added in a Northwestern information launch. “Sure, it is taken a psychological and bodily toll on my physique, however even on my lowest days, I can do some bit greater than the day earlier than.”

Lastly, on July 8, Ramirez was discharged from the hospital and continues to obtain occupational and bodily remedy.

“Individuals want to know that COVID-19 is actual. What occurred to me can occur to you. So please, put on a masks and wash your fingers. If not for you, then do it for others,” Ramirez harassed.

Brian Kuhns with Dr. Bharat after the transplant

Kuhns’ COVID-19 ordeal additionally started in March. The proprietor of an Illinois auto store complained of complications, abdomen pains and a fluctuating temperature. After growing a cough, Kuhns went to an area emergency room on March 18. That was the final time his spouse, Nancy, and their two daughters would see him for almost 4 months.

“Nobody can put together you for the emotional toll COVID-19 takes on a household. Not having the ability to see, contact or maintain the one you love as they’re combating for his or her life within the ICU is extraordinarily tough,” Nancy Kuhns mentioned. “Earlier than COVID-19, Brian was a fairly wholesome man who cherished music, automobiles and making individuals chortle. However he additionally thought COVID-19 was a hoax. I guarantee you; Brian’s tune has now modified. COVID-19 is just not a hoax. It virtually killed my husband.”

Problems, and lengthy hours in surgical procedure

Kuhns was handled at one other hospital earlier than being transferred to Northwestern Memorial for consideration of a double-lung transplant. Inside 72 hours of being waitlisted, the transplant was carried out on July 5. Usually, a double lung transplant takes six to seven hours, however this surgical procedure took near 10 hours, his docs mentioned.

“Previous to Brian’s arrival at Northwestern Memorial, he developed an invasive an infection which required a significant chest surgical procedure. This was going to make the double lung transplant considerably tougher,” mentioned surgeon Dr. Samuel Kim, who assisted Dr. Bharat through the complicated process. “After we opened the chest cavity there was a variety of proof of an infection; the whole lot we touched or dissected began bleeding.”


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Simply in the future after surgical procedure, Kuhns was off the ventilator and continues to get better.

“All the pieces occurred so rapidly. One minute I am operating my enterprise, and the subsequent minute I am spending 100 days on a life help machine,” Kuhns mentioned. “If my story can educate you one factor, it is that COVID-19 is not a joke. Please take this critically.”

Northwestern is just not the one hospital in the USA to carry out a double lung transplant: Physicians on the College of Florida’s Shands Hospital in Gainesville have carried out the lifesaving process on a Texas man in his 50s who fell sick with extreme COVID-19 in April. After 33 days at Shands and greater than three months on ECMO, the affected person has now been faraway from ECMO and is recovering steadily, his docs mentioned.

“This remedy brings much-needed hope that different chosen sufferers battling coronavirus or its aftereffects can have a second likelihood,” mentioned Dr. Tiago Machuca, chief of Shands’ division of thoracic surgical procedure and surgical director of the hospital’s lung transplant program.

Nonetheless, “a lung transplant is a significant, complicated surgical procedure, and the aftermath requires the affected person to make way of life adjustments,” Machuca mentioned in a Shands information launch. “That you must ensure that this type of a process is not only the affected person’s solely choice, however their best choice.”

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SOURCES: Northwestern Drugs, information launch, July 30, 2020; College of Florida, information launch, July 30, 2020

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