CHICAGO (AP) – A Chicago woman who became the first COVID-19 patient to undergo a double lung transplant in the United States last month said Thursday that she woke up days later, unaware of the surgery she had undergone and unable to recognize his body.
Mayra Ramírez stated that before she became ill, she was an active and independent person who moved from North Carolina to Chicago in 2014 to work as an assistant in a law firm. He claimed that he had an autoimmune disease but was otherwise healthy. Ramírez had run about 3 miles shortly before feeling unwell and ending up in a hospital.
“They told me to hurry up and change,” he said. “They asked me who would make the medical decisions for me. I told them that my mother and my older sister live in North Carolina. I only had a couple of minutes to call them and let them know what was going on before they intubated me. ”
Ramírez, 28, received the double transplant on June 5 at Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital. He didn’t wake up until mid-June.
“I looked at myself and couldn’t recognize my body,” he told reporters Thursday. “He did not have the cognitive capacity to process what was happening. I just knew I wanted to drink water. “
Dr. Ankit Bharat, chief of thoracic surgery and chief surgical officer of the Northwest Lung Transplant Program, said Ramirez, who was hooked up to an artificial ventilator, had been fighting for her life for six weeks as the virus completely destroyed her lungs. Doctors used to call Nohemí Romero, the patient’s mother, to inform her how things were going.
Ramirez, sitting next to her mother at the press conference at the hospital, said her family had traveled to Chicago with the intention of saying goodbye.
“Fortunately, by the time my mother and my two sisters arrived, the medical team had managed to stabilize me,” Ramírez said. “The lung transplant option was explained to them and my mother agreed. Then, within 48 hours, I received the lung transplant in a 10-hour operation. “
Bharat considered Ramírez’s surgery a “milestone” in the care of patients with severe COVID-19.
“Lung transplantation is not for all COVID-19 patients, but it does offer some of the critically ill patients another option for survival,” said Bharat. “Mayra and Brian are living proof of that.”
Thoracic surgeon Dr. Rafael Garza Castillon said Northwestern Memorial Hospital is now considering performing the procedure on other patients who have cleared the virus and have no other significant organic failure.
“We are all learning together and sharing best practices, and now lung transplantation is part of the care against COVID-19,” said Bharat. Ramírez, who is already at home, said he feels much better, although he tries to regain his strength and endurance. He said he knew that today a family cries for a loved one.
“It was not until weeks later that I had the ability to think that there is a family crying for a loved one,” said Ramírez. “I have that person’s lungs and how lucky I was to receive them.”