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

CHICAGO -- Northwestern Medicine surgeons performed a second double-lung transplant on a COVID-19 patient last weekend.

The patient, an Illinois man in his 60s, spent 100 days on life support before receiving the transplant over the Fourth of July weekend at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Northwestern surgeons performed what is believed to have been the first-known lung transplant on a COVID-19 patient in the U.S. last month -- on a woman in her 20s.

"Our first patient continues to recover at optimal pace," said Dr. Rade Tomic, a pulmonologist and medical director of the Lung Transplant Program. "Our second patient is already off the ventilator and is talking to his family. We're optimistic that both patients will make a full recovery and return to their daily lives."

The most recent transplant recipient contracted COVID-19 in late March.

For more than three months, the man was on life support before he was cleared of having the coronavirus and was able to receive the double lung transplant.

He is expected to eventually, but his doctors are emphasizing that even in recovered COVID-19 patients, long-term consequences are still unknown.

"I've never seen any case like this," said Northwestern Medicine Thoracic Surgeon, Dr. Samuel Kim.

Kim joined ABC7 Chicago via Skype to give more details about the latest transplant, only the second of its kind in the U.S.
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Doctor Samuel Kim, a thoracic surgeon at Northwestern Medicine., helped perform a double lung transplant surgery.



He said the patients lungs were severely damaged by the virus, almost like concrete.

"Nothing compares to what we see now with these two cases with Covid," Dr. Kim said. "The amount of lung destruction is by far nothing I've really seen in my lifetime."
Typically, a double-lung transplant takes six to seven hours, but this surgery took about 10 hours due to lung damage and severe inflammation in the chest cavities from COVID-19.

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

"His lung damage was among the worst I've ever seen," said Dr. Samuel Kim, a Northwestern Medicine thoracic surgeon who assisted in the double-lung transplant.

After a lung transplant, more than 85-90% of patients survive one year, and report complete independence in day-to-day life, Northwestern doctors say.

While doctors say the country's fatality rates may have level off for the time being, they warn that COVID-19 infections still come with unknown long-term consequences.

"COVID-19 puts individuals who become ill at risk of serious lung problems," said Cook County Health Senior Medical Officer and Co-Lead, Dr. Kiran Joshi He added that so far in a small number of patients, those problems can become chronic.

"Staying home, wearing a mask, maintaining your distance, are things that we can do to do that to protect one another," he said.

For more information on Northwestern Medicine's Lung Transplant Program, visit nm.org.
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