'It was a miracle': 2 COVID-19 survivors who underwent double lung transplants in Chicago share stories

ByDiane Pathieu WABC logo
Thursday, July 30, 2020
2 COVID-19 survivors who underwent double lung transplants at Northwestern Memorial Hospital share stories
A young paralegal in Chicago and a car mechanic from Lake Zurich now have something incredible rare in common.

CHICAGO -- A young paralegal and a car mechanic shared their stories following their historic double lung transplants after suffering from COVID-19.

Mayra Ramirez, 28, and Brian Kuhns, 62, now finally look and feel healthy.

Both patients said the doctors at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago saved their lives.

When they contracted COVID-19, they both suffered severe lung failure. Now, they are breathing on their own.

RELATED: Man becomes 2nd COVID-19 survivor to receive rare double-lung transplant

These two are the first known patients in the U.S. who survived COVID-19 because of double-lung transplants. Both spent weeks in the ICU on ventilators, and life support machines.

Ramirez, who suffers from an autoimmune disease, started feeling symptoms in April. She went into the emergency room on April 26 and says from then on, everything was a blur.


Two COVID-19 survivors discussed Thursday their historic double lung transplants performed at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

She spent six weeks on a ventilator. Her lungs showed irreversible damage. She had a transplant on June 5, and is now breathing on her own.

"I definitely have a purpose and if that purpose is just simply telling my story to raise awareness for people to stay safe and take this condition."

RELATED: Double lung transplant performed on woman who had COVID-19 at Northwestern Memorial Hospital

Kuhns, who said he was pretty healthy, suddenly felt symptoms and went into the emergency room on March 18. His lungs were quickly deteriorating and he had to have a transplant, which took place on July 5 after spending 100 days on a breathing machine.

"I feel better. I feel stronger everyday. I'm very lucky. I fell into a good place. Good people took care of me. Saved me. It's a miracle," he said.

Doctors said both Ramirez and Kuhns would not be alive today without those transplants.

"Usually we do these lung transplants in six to eight hours and we were taking more than this, around 10 hours, so that I think reveals how difficult the dissection was with all of the scarring and damage from the virus," said Dr. Rafael Garza Castillon, Thoracic Surgeon.

Since performing the double lung transplants, Northwestern has been offering their guidance to other transplant centers around the world.