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COVID-19 Patient with Irreversible Lung Damage Recovers After Double Lung Transplant

Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center recently performed its first lung transplant on a coronavirus patient whose lungs had been severely damaged by the virus. Paul Rodriguez, a young father with no pre-existing conditions, contracted the virus and pneumonia back in July in his hometown of San Antonio and had been hospitalized ever since. 

Not long after being admitted to an area hospital in San Antonio, Rodriguez required intubation and the use of a ventilator. In late July, Rodriguez was stabilized on ECMO support, but his condition continued to deteriorate. Dr. Jeffrey Dellavolpe, Medical Director of the Adult ECMO Program at Methodist Hospital in San Antonio, contacted Dr. Puneet Garcha, Medical Director of Lung Transplantation at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center, as it became clear that a lung transplant was his only chance of survival.

Rodriguez was transferred to Houston’s Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center in mid-September for lung transplant evaluation. After undergoing an extensive evaluation, the medical review board approved him for a transplant and within a week of listing – on October 15 – Rodriguez had a brand-new set of lungs. Rodriguez’ transplant was performed by the surgical team led by Dr. Gabriel Loor, Surgical Director of Lung Transplantation at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center. He was successfully weaned off the ventilator and oxygen support. 

Rodriguez underwent rehabilitation at Baylor St. Luke’s before being discharged on November 24 and is expected to continue the rehabilitation program as part of his recovery. Rodriguez recently celebrated his 52nd birthday and a marriage proposal. He married his bride while hospitalized before his transfer to Houston. Rodriguez is the first double lung transplant the hospital has performed on a coronavirus patient since the pandemic began. To date, only a handful of transplant centers in the U.S. have performed lung transplants on patients due to irreversible lung damage caused by the virus.

Drs. Garcha and Loor, who are also associate professors at Baylor College of Medicine, specialize in the clinical evaluation and management of patients with end-stage lung diseases and lung transplantation. They lead a world-class lung transplant team at Baylor St. Luke’s.

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