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COVID patient gets lung transplant because of severe impacts

Posted at 4:39 PM, Jan 27, 2021

BALTIMORE (WMAR) — His life will never be the same after COVID-19. A Maryland man is recovering from the state’s first lung transplant because of the severe impacts of the virus.

"He was a healthy individual as far as we know," said Dr. Pali Shah, the Medical Director of the Johns Hopkins Lung Transplantation Program.

But an October battle with COVID turned into a fight for his life.

"It was basically his only shot to get the lung transplant," said Dr. Errol bush, the Surgical Director of Lung Transplantation at Johns Hopkins.

The Maryland man in his 60s ended up on a ventilator at a community hospital and he was making no signs of recovery.

"The trauma from being on the ventilator for so long had actually caused a hole in his lungs," said Dr. Bush.

He was transferred to Johns Hopkins under Dr. Bush’s care to try and seal that hole but after examination, there were concerns.

"We knew that he wasn’t going to be able to tolerate any of those procedures so the only option we had at that time was actually to put him on advanced life support," said Dr. Bush.

They began evaluating if he would be a candidate for a lung transplant.

"We thought that we could do is safely," said Dr. Bush.

And after two months on advanced life support, over the weekend, he received the life-saving surgery.

Days later, he’s stable and was able to come off advanced life support, but Dr. Shah said he still has a very long road ahead.

"He has to build back all his strength, earn to walk again, learn to eat again, learn to do all the things that we take for granted; all while having gone through a horrible battle with COVID getting through a life-saving critical surgery and then being on the medicines that we have to use to keep the transplant working," said Dr. Shah.

Bush believes this was the first lung transplant for a COVID patient in the state, with less than 10 nationwide... and more who need it.

"We’ve seen several people have a very severely destroyed or damaged lungs as a result of the disease that it tends to be that the lung disease, even if they recovery initially, that lung disease can continue to be progressive," said Dr. Bush.

Dr. Shah said some patients have yet to make complete recoveries and it’s these unknowns that make the vaccine and social distancing measures all the more important.

"I think as we start to emerge from dealing with the onslaught of cases, we’re gonna start to hear about what is the aftermath? What are the complications, not just from a breathing point of view, the emotional toll it’s taken on so many of our patients and their families," said Dr. Shah.

Johns Hopkins has established a post-COVID clinic for patients who have not have complete recoveries.