A Chicago woman who last month became the country’s first COVID-19 patient to have a double lung transplant said she woke up a day later, aware of the surgery and unable to “recognize my body.”
Mayra Ramirez, 28, spoke to the media on Thursday along with Brian Kuhns, 62, of Lake Zurich, Illinois, who followed her as the second U.S. coronavirus patient to undergo the procedure.
Ramirez went to 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 didn’t have the cognitive ability to process what was going on. All I knew was that I wanted water.”;
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Mayra Ramirez, a survivor of COVID-19 due to a double lung transplant, spoke about her journey through the pandemic during her first news conference at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago on Thursday
Before contracting coronavirus, Ramirez, who has an autoimmune condition, said she was otherwise independent and relatively healthy.
Ramirez said she could not recognize her family members with the pictures the hospital nurses had placed 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 becoming ill with coronavirus in April.
She was running a three-mile run just before she was sick and tested at the hospital.
“I was told to hurry (and) change,” she said. ‘I was asked who will make my medical decisions for me. That’s when I told them it would be my mother and older sister who all live in North Carolina.
“I only had a few minutes to contact them to let them know what was going on before I was intubated.”
Ramirez, who moved to Chicago from North Carolina to become a paralegal in 2014, says she is now slowly regaining her strength.
The Ramirez family has launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for its medical expenses
Dr Ankit Bharat, head of thoracic surgery and surgical director of the Northwestern Medicine Lung Transplant Program, said Ramirez, who was on a ventilator, fought for her life for six weeks, with the virus completely destroying the her lungs.
Doctors call Nohemi Romero, her mother in North Carolina, with the updates.
Ramirez, sitting next to her mother during a news conference at the hospital, said her family made the trip to Chicago with the intention of saying goodbye.
“Fortunately, once they arrived, my mother and my two sisters, the medical team was able to stabilize me,” Ramirez said.
‘The lung transplant option was explained and my mother agreed to it. And then within 48 hours, I received a 10-hour lung transplant. ‘
Bharat is calling Ramirez surgery an ‘important step’ in treating patients with severe COVID-19.
Brian Kuhns (pictured left Thursday) 62, of Lake Zurich, Illinois, followed Ramirez as the second American coronavirus patient to undergo the procedure
“Lung transplantation is not for every patient with VOCID-19, but it offers another option for the survival of some critically ill patients,” Bharat said. “Mayra and Brian are living proof of that.”
Ramirez said he is slowly regaining his strength, but says the ordeal has had a physical and mental effect.
“It’s hard to deal with mentally,” she said. “All the time I was there all the time [ventilator] I have had many nightmares and it is difficult to distinguish reality against those nightmares sometimes. “
Dr. Garza Castillon, a thoracic surgeon said Northwestern is now considering performing the procedure on other patients who have eliminated the virus and have no significant organ defects.
“We all learn together and share best practices, and now lung transplantation is part of the COVID-19 treatment,” Bharat said.
Ramirez who is now at home said he is feeling much better, although he is still working to rebuild her strength and endurance. She said she knows there is a family that bores their loved one.
“It wasn’t weeks after I had the ability that, you know, I think myself there is a family out there that is annoying their loved one,” Ramirez said.
“I have that person’s lungs and how lucky I was to have received it.”
Kuhns said he thought the virus was a hoax until he caught it.
“This disease is no joke,” he said. ‘It hit me like a lead slammer on my head. I was perfectly healthy. This thing caught me hard. “