Ontario man considered first Canadian to have lungs destroyed by COVID gets transplant

Click to play video: 'COVID-19' long-haul 'shares its story one year after New Brunswick's first case'

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TORONTO – Timothy Sauve was brushing his teeth one December morning when he was struck by a dizzy spell that knocked him over.

The 61-year-old player from Mississauga, Ont., Didn’t expect this to be the first sign of a COVID-19 infection. But within days, he developed a fever, shortness of breath while sleeping, and was rushed to hospital with a deteriorating condition that eventually necessitated a lung transplant the virus.

Sauve, a man who was healthy and physically fit before contracting the virus, saw the infection wreak havoc in his lungs during his two-month stay in the intensive care units of two hospitals in the Greater Montreal area. Toronto.

Although his lungs were irreparably marked, the virus did not damage any of Sauve’s other organs, making him a candidate for the rare life-saving procedure.

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“Things were pretty dark,” Sauve said of her pre-transplant condition, fighting back tears in a phone interview with the Toronto Rehab Bickle Center at the University Health Network.

“They told me that my (lungs) were not improving and that I had to make arrangements to say goodbye to my loved ones.”

After consulting with his family and doctors, Sauve transferred from Trillium Health Partners in Mississauga to UHN’s Toronto General Hospital, which is home to the largest organ transplant program in Canada.

A careful assessment at the Ajmera transplant center determined he was physically strong enough to undergo a transplant in February.

Dr Marcelo Cypel, the surgical director of the transplant center who led the team in charge of the operation, said Sauve was on “very large amounts of oxygen” when he met him and scans of his lungs showed large amounts of scar tissue called pulmonary fibrosis. .

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While only on a ventilator for a short time during his transfer to Toronto Hospital from Mississauga, Sauve needed advanced pulmonary support therapy called extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) – a machine that pumps. and oxygenates the blood.

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Cypel said Sauve’s lungs narrowed during his infection, becoming stiff and resistant to the airflow.

“The lungs have to be very light, like balloons – you can push the air very easily,” Cypel said. “(Sauve) were actually very similar to patients with chronic lung disease.”

Although the surgery was successful, Cybel said transplants should not become frequently used treatments for severe cases of COVID. The procedure has only been performed “40 or 50” times in the world, he said.

Sauve’s situation was unique in that the virus, aside from the irreversible damage it was causing to his lungs, had not left the rest of his body in a weakened state, Cybel explained.

Sauve had also ruled out his COVID infection by the time he was assessed for a transplant, which was an essential prerequisite before he could undergo surgery. As Sauve said, “It would be a waste to give someone who is not healthy new lungs.”

Cybel says that the increase in worrisome variants that cause severe illness in younger patients may increase the number of referrals in the future. UHN says its transplant program is currently evaluating three other COVID patients for the candidacy.

Long-haul COVID-19 shares its story one year after New Brunswick’s first case

Long-haul COVID-19 shares its story one year after New Brunswick’s first case – March 11, 2021

Although only a very “small subset” of people would qualify, “this is a very powerful and life-saving therapy for some specific patients,” said Cybel.

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Although Sauve is recovering well now, he says the past few months have been a nightmare for his family.

His entire family, including his common-law partner Julie Garcia, his 24-year-old son and his father, Juanito Teng, 80, all tested positive for COVID around the time Sauve fell ill.

Teng died in intensive care shortly after being admitted to the hospital, in a room next to Sauve’s. The family does not know how the members got infected or who contracted the virus first.

Sauve, who had no previous comorbidities that put him at a higher risk for infection or serious illness, says he hopes his story can resonate with anyone who thinks COVID-19 is not so serious.

“People don’t realize what COVID is doing to people… and sometimes they let their guard down,” he says. “I thought that when I got the disease, I would be okay with it.”

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Sauve said the immediate consequences of his operation are unclear, with pain relievers so strong they hallucinated him – a normal reaction, his doctors told him. He also doesn’t remember much of the day he found out he had his new lungs.

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“I just remember waiting,” he said. “And the next thing I knew I was waking up from the operation _ after the hallucinations had worn off _ and I realized I wasn’t wearing an oxygen mask.”

Recovery time varies for patients after the transplant, so Sauve does not know how long he will need to stay in the rehabilitation center.

But he doesn’t want to rush things.

“I want to get out of here on my own,” he said. “I want to go home to my beautiful partner, Julie, but I don’t want to need a walker. I’ll stay here a little longer if I have to _ it may take two months, three months, but my goal is to go home. “

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© 2021 The Canadian Press

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