A Chicago woman who became the country’s first COVID-19 patient to undergo a double lung transplant last month said she woke up days later unaware of the operation and unable to “recognize her body.”
Myra Ramirez, 28, spoke to the media on Thursday with Brian Koons, 62, of Lake Zurich, Illinois, who followed her as the second coronavirus patient in the United States to undergo the procedure.
Ramirez underwent surgery at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago on June 5 and did not wake up until weeks later.
“I looked at myself and I couldn’t recognize my body,” she told reporters. “I did not have the cognitive ability to process what was happening. All I knew was that I wanted water.
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Myra Ramirez, survivor of COVID-19 due to two lung transplants, talks about her journey through the pandemic during her first press conference at the Northwest Memorial Hospital in Chicago on Thursday
Before infecting the coronavirus, Ramirez, who has an autoimmune condition, said she was otherwise independent and relatively healthy.
Ramirez said she could not recognize her family members by photos the nurses posted around her room.
“I was actually upset because I thought it was a different family,” she added.
Ramirez, who has an autoimmune condition, was intubated shortly after contracting coronavirus in April.
She had walked three kilometers shortly before she fell ill and was on her way to the hospital.
“I was told to hurry (and change),” she said. “They asked me who would make my medical decisions for me. Then I told them that my mother and eldest sister would live in North Carolina.
“I only had a few minutes to contact them to let them know what was going on before I intubated.”
Ramirez, who moved to Chicago from North Carolina to become a paralegal in 2014, says she is now slowly regaining her strength
Ramirez’s family launched the GoFundMe campaign to raise money for their medical expenses
Dr. Ankit Bharat, head of thoracic surgery and surgical director of the Northwestern Lung Transplant Program, said Ramirez, who was on a ventilator, fought for her life for six weeks, completely destroying the virus. her lungs.
Doctors would call Nohemi Romero, her mother in North Carolina, for updates.
Ramirez, who was sitting next to her mother during a press conference at the hospital, said her family had made the trip to Chicago with the intention of saying goodbye.
“Fortunately, after my mother and two sisters arrived, the medical team was able to stabilize me,” Ramirez said.
“They explained to them the possibility of a lung transplant and my mother agreed. And then within 48 hours I received a 10-hour lung transplant. “
Bharat calls Ramirez’s operation a “cornerstone” in the care of patients with severe COVID-19.
Brian Koons (pictured left Thursday) 62, from Lake Zurich, Illinois, followed Ramirez as the second coronavirus patient in the United States to undergo the procedure
“Lung transplantation is not for every patient with COVID-19, but it offers some seriously ill people other options for survival,” Bharat said. “Myra and Brian are living proof of that.”
Ramirez said he was slowly regaining his strength, but said the ordeal had taken a physical and mental path.
“It’s hard to cope mentally,” she said. “All the time I was on.” [ventilator] I have had many nightmares and it is difficult to distinguish reality from these nightmares sometimes. “
Thoracic surgeon Dr. Rafael Garza Castillon said Northwest was considering performing the procedure on other patients who had eliminated the virus and had no other significant organ failure.
“We are all learning together and sharing best practices, and now lung transplantation is part of caring for COVID-19,” Bharat said.
Ramirez, who is already at home, said she is feeling much better, although she is still working to regain her strength and endurance. She said she knew she had a family grieving for her loved one.
“It wasn’t until weeks later that I had the opportunity to think that there was a family grieving for a loved one,” Ramirez said.
“I have this man’s lungs and how lucky I was to have him.”
Koons said he thought the virus was a scam until it became infected.
“This disease is not a joke,” he said. “It hit me like a lead in the head.” I was completely healthy. This thing brought me down a lot.