Indian hospital conducts first-ever post-Covid double lung transplant on frontline doctor

Supplied photo
Supplied photo

Bangalore - Since his lungs were severely damaged, he needed the complex operation to survive.

By Team KT

Published: Tue 21 Sep 2021, 2:05 PM

Last updated: Tue 21 Sep 2021, 2:07 PM

Doctors at Aster CMI Hospital successfully carried out the first-ever post-Covid double lung transplant on a frontline doctor.

Dr Sanath Kumar, a 30-year-old anaesthetist at a private hospital in Bangalore, had been working tirelessly to treat critically ill Covid-19 patients since the pandemic began.

Unfortunately, during the course of his work, he contracted the coronavirus, which eventually damaged his lungs, requiring urgent transplantation.

Unaware of having caught the infection, Dr Sanath started having fever and cough. When a Covid test confirmed that he had the virus, he immediately began taking medications but his condition worsened over time. His oxygen level dropped to 60 per cent, so he was put on a mechanical ventilator.

He was then referred to Aster CMI Hospital, where he was put on ECMO support. He was then kept on observation for three to four weeks. Since his lungs were severely damaged, doctors said he needed a double lung transplant to survive.

A team of critical-care consultants, pulmonologists and lung transplant surgeons looked after Dr Kumar for three and half months; carried out a double lung transplant; and gave him a new lease of life.

"A double lung transplant is a gruelling surgery and it was the only solution for Dr Sanath, who experienced a life-threatening combination of lung damage caused by the Covid-19 virus, an exaggerated immune response to it, and the body’s failure to properly repair the injury," said Dr Sandeep Attawar, chair and director of thoracic organ transplants and assist devices at KIMS Heart and Lung Transplant Institute.

“What makes this surgery uniquely complex is the subset of patients that are forced to accept this option. They are intubated, de-conditioned, nutritionally inadequate and suffer from airway and blood stream infections during their prolonged hospitalisation. Treating these critically ill patients successfully with a double lung transplant, underlines the overall abilities of a high-quality transplant programme,” he explained.

Dr V Arun, lead consultant for anaesthesia and critical care at Aster CMI Hospital, said: “Dr Sanath’s case was both emotionally and clinically challenging. Being from the same fraternity working with Covid-19 patients, it was difficult to see a colleague whose lung damage had progressed so far. When he was referred to Aster CMI, he was intubated and was on 100 per cent oxygen support but barely having enough oxygen in his bloodstream to survive.”

“Within half an hour of his arrival we initiated ECMO support to help him oxygenate the rest of his body. Despite keeping him on ECMO and resting the lungs they continued to deteriorate. Long-term ECMO with a bleak outlook was a difficult period for him and his family. A transplant was the last option. Luckily, he remained stable over the next few weeks while we waited for a suitable donor match for him. We were able to find a suitable match after four weeks and he underwent lung transplant,” said the doctor.

Thanking all his doctors, Dr Sanath said: “When I tested positive and started taking medicines, I thought I will recover soon. I had never imagined that I would suffer severely and end up having a lung transplant. I want to thank all the doctors, surgeons, nurses and other staff at Aster CMI for their support and giving me a second chance to live. I also want to extend my gratitude to my family who stood by me in this journey, without their help all of these would have not been possible.”

The Covid warrior is now at home with his family, but he still needs to stay indoors in a secure environment to minimise the risk of catching infection again.

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