'I want to say thank you': Man devastated by COVID receives rare double lung transplant at Northwestern

WLS logo
Friday, March 5, 2021
Man devastated by COVID gets 2nd chance at life with rare double lung transplant
EMBED <>More Videos

Leo Castillo is one of 12 COVID survivors to receive a double lung transplant from Dr. Ankit Bharat.

CHICAGO -- A man whose lungs were devasted by COVID-19 has a new lease on life after doctors at Northwestern Medicine performed a rare double lung transplant.

At 43, Leo Castillo was loving life, an active and healthy father and husband with a sense of humor.

In the spring of 2020, COVID-19 ripped through his household. By May, Castillo wound up in the hospital and was put on a ventilator.

Though free of COVID, the virus essentially destroyed his lungs. The organs simply couldn't recover.

A rare and risky double lung transplant turned out to be his only hope for survival.

RELATED: Northwestern Medicine performing double-lung transplants on sickest COVID-19 patients

"Transplant should always be the option of last resort," said Dr. Ankit Bharat, a thoracic surgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

Bharat was the first surgeon to perform a double lung transplant on a coronavirus patient in the U.S. Before, only a few other COVID-19 survivors, in China and Europe, have received lung transplants.

Northwestern Medicine said they have done more of these procedures than any other American hospital.

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

Just six days after Castillo was listed for transplant, Northwestern found a donor.

After Bharat performed the harrowing surgery, Castillo survived but is still not out of the woods. He's in the middle of a long, brutal recovery.

"I want to say thank you. You are the best, you are the best," Castillo told Bharat.

Double lung transplant COVID-19 survivor reflects on rising hospitalizations and deaths, offers advice

For COVID-19 survivor Brian Kuhns, life is hospital visits, physical therapy and an effort to heal.

Castillo is one of 12 COVID survivors who received a double lung transplant from Bharat. He's collaborated with hospitals throughout the country, in total contributing to 50 of these life-saving procedures.