For the first time ever in Europe, a young 18-year-old Italian has received a double lung transplant after suffering irreversible damage as a result of the coronavirus.
THE young man who, in theory, has always been healthy and possessed no previous underling illnesses contracted the coronavirus and in just four days was rushed to hospital and admitted into the Intensive Care Unit at the Polyclinic Hospital in Milan. There he spent two entire months only being able to breathe through extracorporeal respiratory machines.
A spokesperson for the hospital has affirmed that, so far, only one other operation like this one has been carried out before, in China. Mario Nosotti the director of thoracic surgery and lung transplants at the Milanese Polyclinic was the first in Europe to conduct this operation on May 18. Dr Nosotti explained that the coronavirus had practically “burnt” out his respiratory organs, not allowing the patient to breathe for a few days.
Given the dire state of the young man’s lungs, the doctors warned his family that “only a miracle” could save the 18-year-old’s life. On March 23, after his condition worsened significantly, doctors from the Intensive Care Unit at the Cardiac Surgery Branch of the San Rafael Hospital in Milan, connected the boy to a coma machine so that he could breathe.
By mid-April doctors agreed that the only solution would be to conduct a double lung transplant at the Polyclinic which, until now, had only been successfully achieved in China, where the Covid-19 outbreak had begun.
On April 30, they placed him on a transplant list and finally two weeks ago they received notice of a suitable pair for the young man which were donated by a deceased person.
Transplants in general are a very delicate operation but this delicacy is even more fragile when all the personnel in the operating room are forced to wear virus protection devices, such as ventilation helmets which make movement difficult and often cause fatigue amongst sanitary staff.
This was such an important factor that the nurses, surgical team and anaesthesiology team had to plan their changes at regular intervals to allow colleagues to catch their breath.
The transplant was also increasingly difficult due to the dire state of the poor boy’s lungs which even “appeared to be made of wood” as they were “extremely heavy and in some areas completely destroyed.”
Nevertheless, the operation was a great success and after 12 hours, the ventilator and artificial respirator was disconnected, allowing him to breathe by himself.
The young man who is currently recovering from this surgery and the coronavirus, will have to undergo a long rehabilitation process, not so much because of the virus but because of the 58 days he spent trapped in a bed with assisted breathing and intubated.