But Aquino, a health care worker in the Glenview Heights suburb, defied all expectations and received one of the first “COVID-to-COVID” double lung transplants in the United States.
Alongside his niece, the 65-year-old spoke to reporters at Northwestern Memorial Hospital on Friday, which marked exactly a year since he had been short of breath and visited the emergency room.
From that day forward, Aquino said, his life changed completely.
He was placed on a ventilator and given convalescent plasma before being transferred to another hospital, according to a press release from Northwestern Medicine.
There, he was treated using an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine, which pumps and oxygenates an individual’s blood outside their body.
Aquino was removed from ECMO after two months, but his lungs struggled to recover and he remained on a ventilator.
“Renato was running out of options… and time, so we knew this was probably his one and last option,” said Dr. Ankit Bharat, chief of thoracic surgery and director of the lung transplant program at Northwestern Medicine. .
Bharat, who performed the surgery, used the lungs of a donor who previously had COVID-19 and died of unrelated causes. The lung transplant team performed several tests that looked at the donor’s lung fluid to make sure the individual had cleared the virus from their body, hospital officials explained.
“The current consensus guidelines are that donors with a history of COVID-19 can be used for organ transplantation as long as they have recovered clinically and have tested negative,” said Dr Michael Ison, disease specialist. infectious diseases and organ transplantation at Northwestern Medicine. “… This transplant demonstrates the safety of the use of organs from these donors. “
Northwestern Medicine surgeons have performed 20 double lung transplants on survivors of COVID, the largest in the world, the health system said.
Aquino, the recent recipient, expressed thanks for his new lungs and the doctors who made the revolutionary surgery possible.
“I still have a good life, I think so,” he said. “There is a long way to go. I have the determination to do well… the determination to prove that they are not sorry for giving me a second chance. ”