A Chicago woman who became a member of the nation last monthsaid on Thursday he woke up a few days later, unaware of the operation and unable to “recognize my body.”
Mayra Ramirez said she was an independent, active personality before she fell ill. He moved from North Carolina to Chicago to work as a paralegal. She claimed to have had an autoimmune condition but was otherwise healthy. Just before she fell ill and went to the hospital, she went for a three-mile run.
“I was told to hurry (and) change,” she said. “I was asked who would make medical decisions for me. Then I told them that my mother and older sister lived in North Carolina. I only had a few minutes to contact them to let me know what was going on before I intubated.”
Ramirez, 28, spoke to the media on Thursday along with 62-year-old Brian Kuhns from Lake Zurich, Illinois, who followed as the second U.S. coronavirus patient to undergo a double transplant.
Ramirez had his lungs transplanted on June 5th. Northwest Memorial Hospital in Chicago. She didn’t wake up until mid-June.
“I looked at myself and couldn’t recognize my body,” she said. “I didn’t have the cognitive ability to handle what was going on. All I knew was that I wanted water.”
Head of Thoracic Surgery and Head of Surgery of the Northwestern Medical Lung Transplant Program dr. Ankit Bharat said Ramirez, who worked for a fan, fought for his life for six weeks, a virus that completely destroyed her lungs. Doctors will call Nohemi Romero, her mother in North Carolina, with updates.
During a press conference at the hospital sitting next to her mother, Ramirez said her family went to Chicago with the intention of saying goodbye.
“Fortunately, when they arrived, my mother and my two sisters, the medical team were able to stabilize me,” Ramirez said. “They were explained the possibility of a lung transplant, and my mom agreed to that. And then within 48 hours, I got a 10-hour lung transplant.”
Bharat calls surgery Ramirez a “landmark” in the care of patients with severe COVID-19.
“Lung transplantation is not for every patient with COVID-19, but for some critically ill patients, it provides another chance to survive,” Bharat said. “Mayra and Brian are living proof of that.”
Chest surgeon dr. Rafael Garza Castillon said Northwestern is now considering a procedure for other patients who have removed the virus and do not have any other significant organ failure.
“We are all learning together and sharing good practices, and now lung transplantation is part of COVID-19 care,” Bharat said.
Ramirez, who is now at home, said he feels much better while still struggling to regain strength and endurance. She said she knew the family loved a loved one.
“Only after a few weeks could I, of course, know for myself if there was a family out there that saddened their loved one,” Ramirez said. “I have that person’s lungs and how lucky I was to have him.”
Kuhns said he believed the virus was a hoax until he became infected.
“This disease is not a joke,” he said. “It hit me like a lead blow to my head. I was completely healthy. This thing let me down hard.”