One man from New Jersey among dozens of COVID-19 patients received a lung transplant

Thomas Williams arrived at Temple University Hospital in early March. His life may depend on his eligibility for a lung transplant.

The New Jersey resident was hospitalized for COVID-19 at the Deborah Heart and Lung Center in Burlington County last month. His heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease made him extremely vulnerable to serious infections-the coronavirus quickly hurt him.

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When he was transferred to Temple, Williams, now 60, had developed advanced lung disease. He consumes as much as 50 liters of oxygen per minute, and his body has degraded.

Retired Marshal Williams said: “Even with all the oxygen support, my breathing is indeed challenged.” “It’s difficult.”

Within 15 days, Williams underwent a transplant evaluation-extensive examinations, including cancer screening, blood tests, and cardiac catheterization-and quickly underwent a new right lung surgery.

Dr. Nathaniel Marchetti, the medical director of the Temple Respiratory Intensive Care Unit, said: “I just emphasize that the stars must be aimed at him correctly.” “Fortunately, he was able to get it, because without it, he would definitely Will die. But… this is not a standard transplant story-to be sure.”

Unlike Williams, most patients undergoing lung transplantation were not hospitalized for acute illness at the time of the operation. Instead, they live in a home with chronic diseases. But in recent months, there has been a surge in transplant operations for patients with severe COVID-19 complications.

Although the severity of the disease made them rise to the top of the transplant list, they could not afford the long wait.

Williams is lucky. Only four days after listing, he underwent a transplant.

Williams said: “This is an absolute miracle in itself.” “It happened so quickly that they found a lung that I could be compatible with.”

Temple COVID-19 transplant 3Courtesy/Thomas Williams

Thomas Williams received a maximum of 50 liters of oxygen per minute before receiving a single lung transplant at Temple University Hospital in March.

“That’s the only option”

Williams underwent femoral bypass surgery in Deborah in late December. A few days later, he was put on a ventilator. The procedure made him weak and vulnerable to infection.

In early February, Williams began to feel unwell. After his temperature rose to 101 degrees, his primary care doctor instructed him to return to Deborah. He was admitted for COVID-19.

Williams’ left lung had previously been severely damaged by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. This situation-the result of decades of smoking-requires him to receive oxygen support every night. Now, the coronavirus has rendered his good lungs useless.

Williams already knew that he might need a lung transplant when he left Deborah, but he hoped that Temple could find another treatment. That is not true. Williams said that if the transplant is not performed, he will be tied to a hospital bed and trapped on oxygen, which may not last long.

Williams said: “The COVID has damaged the lungs. The best treatment for me is a lung transplant.” “There is not much time to think about it. But for the quality of life in the future, I think this is the only option. .”

In January, surgeons performed Temple’s first lung transplantation related to COVID. Although the number of US hospitals participating in this operation is small but growing, the number is still growing. According to the United States Organ Sharing Network, as of April 30, the hospital had performed three more operations, including Williams.

(Learn how Temple and Payne became one of the most important health systems in COVID-related lung transplants.)

Nathaniel MarchettiSource/Temple Health

Dr. Nathaniel Marchetti

Dr. Sameep Sehgal, Assistant Professor of Thoracic Medicine and Surgery, said: “These patients are highly selected patients.” “This is not every COVID patient with severe lung disease. They did go through quite a bit of intense stress before actually undergoing a transplant. The selection process. This is a small part of all patients suffering from lung damage due to severe COVID.”

In order to qualify, the organ dysfunction must be limited to the lungs. The patient must be cleared of certain infectious diseases. They cannot be overweight or underweight. Among other qualifications, they must be able to complete post-transplant rehabilitation.

Williams spent a few days completing the necessary tests to determine his eligibility status and calculate his lung allocation score, which is an important factor in determining the priority of transplantation.

Williams was included in the transplant list on March 15. The wait begins.

To expand the donor pool, Marchetti said, it lists many patients who have received single or double lung transplants. Some patients need a double lung transplant, but for most patients, a single lung is sufficient—especially those who are sick like Williams.

Marchetti said: “One of the advantages of single-lung transplantation over double-lung transplantation is that the waiting time is much shorter.” “This is a big advantage, especially when you are as sick as he is.”

Marchetti said that on March 18, Williams received news that a lung was available-an unusually fast turnover. Dr. Yoshiya Toyoda, Director of the Thoracic Transplant Surgery at Temple, completed the operation the next day.

Temple COVID-19 transplant 2Courtesy/Thomas Williams

By the way, Thomas Williams said that after three months of hospitalization (including a single lung transplant), it was “surprising” to finally talk to his wife in person.

“A new way of life”

After the operation, Williams spent another month in the hospital before being discharged. He was sent to Moss Rehab for a while, but due to lung bleeding, he immediately returned to Temple.

Williams has been recovering for most of the past three weeks at home The town of Bass River in Burlington County and his wife Maggie and two children were hospitalized until they suffered a setback a few days ago. But he hopes to be discharged soon.

Maggie said: “We are very excited for him to go home.” “We can’t wait. But it’s also scary because he is still weak….After the transplant, there are many new things. This is a new way of life. “

If it weren’t for the people from Temple, I don’t think I would live.I really don’t know – Thomas Williams, lung transplant patient

Because of his weak immune system, he needs special attention even when eating. To avoid food-borne illness, Williams cannot eat certain salad dressings or cheeses. Cooked meat must be heated. The potatoes must be scrubbed and soaked in water before peeling.

Williams will receive a blood draw once a week and receive several days of rehabilitation. Sometimes, he returned to Temple for follow-up visits.

Marchetti said before the recent hospitalization: “As long as he is not infected, we hope that he can live a very good life as a new transplant patient.” “His prognosis is very good.”

Before the fight against the coronavirus, COPD affected Williams’ quality of life. During his vacation in the Blue Ridge Mountains in September last year, his breathing was so bad that he needed a break while walking and took a lot of naps.

He also needs to add a small amount of oxygen overnight. But he didn’t do it anymore.

Williams is still weak, but he said he is recovering the strength and stability he lost during his hospital stay. Although he mainly relies on walking aids, he can walk without assistance in a short period of time.

He hopes to regain enough power to enjoy the outdoor activities he loves.

Maggie said: “He is determined to park the boat on the water.” “He is a hunter. He also looks forward to doing the same this year. We very much hope that things will be different.”

Currently, Williams is happy to have face-to-face conversations with his extended family and close friends on the porch-even if they have to keep a distance because of the suppressed immune system.

Williams said that during his three-month hospitalization, the lack of close contact made him feel painful. He has only seen Maggie four times due to the adoption of the COVID-19 protocol, and once, when he was transferred to MossRehab, it was just choppy. The last time was when she took him home when she arrived.

Williams said: “Emotionally speaking, it’s great to be able to meet my wife and my children, and to be able to have face-to-face conversations with people you know.” “It’s really playing a mind game, letting you and People you know are isolated, except (contact them via mobile phones).”

No one knows how long-term COVID-19 patients receiving lung transplants will survive. But Williams remains optimistic.

Williams said: “I feel stronger and stronger, and I count my blessings every day.” “If it weren’t for the people in Temple, I don’t think I will live. I really won’t.”

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