Two men survived COVID-19 thanks to double lung transplants at UMMC

COVID-19 destroyed two men's lungs, nearly killing them.
Posted at 2:37 PM, May 18, 2021

BALTIMORE — COVID-19 destroyed two men's lungs, nearly killing them.

Then surgeons at the University of Maryland Medical Center stepped in and saved them with double-lung transplants.

Now thriving.

Before testing positive for the coronavirus, 62-year-old John Micklus, of La Plata, had healthy lungs.

But that soon changed when doctors at one hospital said nothing could be done to help.

Micklus was initially diagnosed on New Year’s Eve and spent 10 days in the hospital. He felt better after being discharged, but was back in the hospital within a week.

That's when his wife began calling around looking for help, and the University of Maryland Medical Center came along.

“I was lucky enough to be a match for a lung donor that the doctors felt was suitable for me within a few days,” said Micklus who was discharged March 30.

The procedure was the second of its kind at UMMC.

On February 6, Just before Micklus, another Maryland man named Anthony underwent a double lung transplant.

Prior to his procedure Anthony had to be put on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, which works like the heart and lungs to remove carbon dioxide and return oxygen-filled blood back to the tissues.

Although the UMMC lung transplant team routinely performs 25-30 lung transplants each year, these two were different.

“You cannot perform the transplant too early, because you have to be sure the patient is cleared of the COVID virus. But you cannot do it too late, because at that point, patients may be so weak they cannot survive the operation and meaningfully participate in rehabilitation,” said Robert M. Reed, MD, Professor of Medicine, UMSOM, and Associate Medical Director of the Lung Transplant Program at UMMC.

Reed added that the procedures Anthony and Micklus underwent aren't for everyone

“The key message: this option of lung transplant is definitely not for every patient with COVID. It’s for the patients who are still strong otherwise, but have lungs that have been devastated by COVID.” said Reed.

Listen to each of their stories below.