First known 'COVID-to-COVID' double lung transplant recipient speaks out

CHICAGO (WABC) -- The first known 'COVID-to-COVID' double lung transplant recipient is speaking out following his successful surgery.

Renato Aquino went to the hospital a year ago suffering from shortness of breath due to COVID-19.

The virus ultimately caused permanent lung damage.

He needed a lung transplant and he was running out of time.

He spent the next 12 months in and out of hospitals, wondering if the end was near.

But a donor became available and Aquino's lung transplant was done on February 25 by doctors from Northwestern Medicine in Illinois.

The lungs came from a donor who also had COVID, but had recovered before dying of an unrelated cause and had not suffered permanent lung damage.

"After spending one week on the transplant waitlist, we received a call that lungs were available from a donor who previously had a mild to moderate COVID, but that donor's death was unrelated to COVID. Renato was running out of options and running out of time. So we knew that this was probably his only and last option," Chief of Thoracic Surgery Dr. Ankit Bharat said.

"I feel wonderful. What can I say? Here I am. Thank you. I'm alive," Renato Aquino said.

The operation represented a milestone in terms of lung transplantation.

There's no indication that COVID-19 has been reactivated in Renato's lungs.

He is expected to make a full recovery.

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