A 20-something woman whose lungs were devastated by the coronavirus has undergone the first known US lung transplant related to COVID-19—a double transplant, at that. It was her one shot at survival, reports the New York Times. The procedure carried out at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago last week took 10 hours, as the woman's lungs were "completely plastered to tissue around them, the heart, the chest wall, and diaphragm" as a result of inflammation, says Dr. Ankit Bharat, chief of thoracic surgery. The Hispanic woman had been taking an immunosuppressant to treat a minor illness before she got the virus but was otherwise healthy, with no serious underlying conditions. She was sick for two weeks before being admitted to a hospital in late April. Despite six weeks on a ventilator, her condition worsened to the point that her lungs couldn't bounce back, per CBS Chicago.
"It's hard to let someone go like that. We wanted to give her every option," Bharat tells the Times. The patient was placed on a transplant list after testing negative for COVID-19, and the surgery followed within days. Bharat says the woman's lungs showed some of the worst damage he's ever seen. He hopes the case will inspire doctors to consider this "lifesaving intervention" for other desperately ill patients, per the Washington Post. But "we are talking about patients who are relatively young, very functional, with minimal to no comorbid conditions, with permanent lung damage who can't get off the ventilator," Bharat tells the Times. Despite two new lungs, the female patient remains on a ventilator, as her chest muscles aren't strong enough yet for breathing, the Times reports. But "she's awake, she's smiling, she FaceTimed with her family," Bharat says. (Read more COVID-19 stories.)