A Chicago woman who became the nation last monthsaid Thursday she woke up a day later, aware of the operation and unable to “recognize my body.”
Mayra Ramirez said that before she left she was an independent and 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 healthy. 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 would make my medical decisions for me. That day 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, 28, spoke to the media on Thursday along with Brian Kuhns, 62, of Lake Zurich, Illinois, who followed him as the second American coronavirus patient to undergo a double transplant.
Ramirez underwent a lung transplant on June 5 at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. It does 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 process what was going on. All I knew was that I wanted water.”
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 destroying completely 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 the 10-hour lung transplant.”
Bharat is calling Ramirez an “important operation” in the treatment of patients with severe COVID-19.
“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.”
Thoracic surgeon Dr. Rafael Garza Castillon said Northwestern is now considering performing the procedure on other patients who’ve eliminated the virus and who 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 strong. This thing caught me hard.”