CHICAGO, IL (NBC NEWS) — A man who received what is believed to be the country’s first “COVID to COVID” double-lung transplant is sharing his story of survival.
Renato Aquino, 65, of Chicago, was admitted to the hospital on May 14, 2020, after experiencing shortness of breath and was placed on a ventilator.
The donor only had mild symptoms of COVID and had recovered but later died from unreleated causes.
Before the transplant surgery the doctors at Northwestern Medicine tested the donor’s lung fluid to be sure the body cleared all traces of the virus.
The surgery took place on Feb. 25 and Aquino was discharged on May 5.
And today Aquino says he feels wonderful and was given a second chance at life.
Aquino’s surgeons say donors who had mild cases of COVID-19 should not be immediately disregarded.
Northwestern Medicine Chief of Thoracic Surgery Dr. Ankit Bharat said, “Renato was running out of options and running out of time, so we knew this was probably his only and last option. We knew that a Covid-to-Covid lung transplant could possibly help him.”
Bharat added, “No one knows where that final number of coronavirus cases is going to end up with, but that is over a tenth of the U.S. population. So if we said no to those patients from being organ donors, then we’re just not going to have enough organs to save lives.”
Transplant patient Renato Aquino said “I feel wonderful. You got no idea how I feel right now being with… given a second chance. I know all I can say is thank you and I’m looking forward to a normal life and given a second chance and the lungs given.”
Renato’s niece Tasha Sundstrom said, “I made all the arrangements and then the next day, he proved us wrong. He wanted to live so who are we… so every time that we lost hope, he thrives. He really is a fighter.”
Aquino continues to recover at home.