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

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Northwestern Memorial Hospital has announced its first successful double lung transplant on a woman recovering from COVID-19.

Doctors said that at one point, she was one of the sickest people in the hospital. Only a few other COVID-19 survivors, in China and Europe, have received lung transplants and this is believed to be the first in the U.S., Northwestern doctors said.

Northwestern Medicine said the lung transplant was the only way to save this patient's life after more than a month fighting COVID-19 in the ICU.

Northwestern said the patient is an otherwise healthy woman in her 20s who spent six weeks on a ventilator and life support machine.

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Doctors at Northwestern Memorial Hospital discuss a doubel transplant for a woman who had COVID-19.

COVID-19 attacks the lungs, which Northwestern said is exactly what happened in the patient, calling the damage "irreversible."

"A lung transplant was her only chance for survival," says Ankit Bharat, MD, chief of thoracic surgery and surgical director of the Northwestern Medicine Lung Transplant Program. "We are one of the first health systems to successfully perform a lung transplant on a patient recovering from COVID-19. We want other transplant centers to know that while the transplant procedure in these patients is quite technically challenging, it can be done safely, and it offers the terminally ill COVID-19 patients another option for survival."

Northwestern said the patient has a lot of recovery ahead of her with potential risks given how sick she was, but doctors hope this operation will save her life and be a model of how more patients can have a shot at recovery.

Northwestern said the patient needed to test negative for COVID-19 before doctors could even put her on the transplant wait list and fortunately, they found her new organs soon after.

Doctors are optimistic and point how there is still much that isn't known about COVID-19 and how a woman in her 20s got that sick to begin with.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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