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The young coronavirus survivor says she could not recognize her body after a double lung transplant

A Chicago woman who became the nation’s last month first COVID-19 patient to undergo a double lung transplant said Thursday that she woke up days later unaware of the operation and could not “recognize my body.”

Myra Ramirez said that before she became ill, she was an independent, active person who moved from North Carolina to Chicago in 2014 to work as a paralegal. She said she had an autoimmune condition, but was otherwise healthy. She had walked three kilometers shortly before she fell ill and was on her way to the hospital.

Transplantation of a viral epidemic
Myra Ramirez, a survivor of COVID-19 due to a lung transplant, heard on Thursday, July 30, 2020, a question about her journey through the pandemic during her first press conference at the Northwest Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

Charles Rex Arbogast / AP

“I was told to hurry (and change),” she said. “They asked me who would make my medical decisions for me. That’s when I told them that my mother and eldest sister were all living in North Carolina. I only had a few minutes to contact them to help them. tell me what’s going on. before I intubate. “

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 a double transplant.

Ramirez underwent a lung transplant on June 5 at the Northwest Memorial Hospital in Chicago. She did not wake up until mid-June.

“I looked at myself and I couldn’t recognize my body,” she said. “I didn’t have the cognitive ability to handle what was happening. All I knew was that I wanted water.”

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 the possibility of a lung transplant and my mother agreed to it. And then within 48 hours I got a 10-hour lung transplant.”

Bharat calls Ramirez’s operation a “cornerstone” in the care of patients with severe COVID-19.

“Lung transplantation is not for every patient with COVID-19, but it offers some critically ill patients another way to survive,” Bharat said. “Myra and Brian are living proof of that.”

Transplantation of a viral epidemic
Brian Koons of Lake Zurich, Illinois, a COVID-19 survivor of a double lung transplant, heard a question on Thursday, July 30, 2020, about his journey through the pandemic during his first press conference at the Memorial Hospital in the Northwest District of Chicago.

Charles Rex Arbogast / AP

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 leaden bang on the head. I was completely healthy. This thing took me down hard.”

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