Amid the tragedy of the COVID-19 pandemic, caring supporters like you are making breakthrough medicine and positive outcomes possible. Your gifts have helped Northwestern Medicine offer a groundbreaking procedure that is saving the lives of patients who can no longer breathe on their own due to damage from COVID-19.
Your compassion has enabled Ankit Bharat, MD, and his team to perform pioneering double-lung transplant surgeries at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. These procedures can be perilous for people whose lungs have been destroyed and whose bodies have been weakened by COVID-19, yet they are the only way for some patients to survive.
Despite the complex nature of COVID-19-related lung transplants, Dr. Bharat has successfully performed 145 of the life-saving procedures, and that number keeps growing.
From High Stakes to Healthy Lungs
When the virus began to rapidly spread last year, Dr. Bharat saw in deceased patients a way to save others. He made a point of examining the lungs of organ donors who died from COVID-19 to better understand how the virus affects the body.
Dr. Bharat’s relentless quest to provide better care ultimately led to discoveries that would alter the course of many lives, including the life of Leo Castillo. Leo’s powerful story has been highlighted by Good Morning America and Nightline, among other news outlets.
Leo is a 43-year-old husband and father from Washington, D.C. Known by family and friends for his great sense of humor, he was active and healthy before contracting COVID-19 last year.
The virus wreaked havoc on Leo’s body, including his lungs. As his family tried to hold onto hope in dark circumstances, Northwestern Medicine offered them a glimmer of light: the opportunity for Leo to receive a double-lung transplant.
There were difficult moments during Leo’s high-stakes operation. But with Dr. Bharat’s skillful guidance, physicians and nurses successfully replaced his ravaged lungs with healthy ones from an organ donor.
Leo became the third known patient in the U.S. to receive a double-lung transplant following illness with COVID-19. His recovery continues, as does his gratitude. During a recent conversation with Dr. Bharat, Leo told him, “I want to say thank you. You are the best.”
Making Strides in Modern Medicine
In addition to helping patients like Leo, Dr. Bharat also recently performed one of the world’s first “COVID-to-COVID” lung transplants at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. This milestone was recognized by news media including The Daily Beast, Daily Mail and Chicago Tribune.
Dr. Bharat performed the lung transplant on a healthcare worker who had irreversible lung damage from COVID-19 and could not breathe on their own. The patient received healthy lungs from an organ donor who survived COVID-19 and later died of an unrelated cause.
Before approving the surgery, Northwestern Medicine physicians conducted a thorough lung biopsy and carefully tested lung fluid to confirm that the donor had fully recovered from COVID-19. The transplant surgery went smoothly, and the patient is currently recovering.
Dr. Bharat continues to drive medicine forward and bring hope to patients severely impacted by COVID-19. However, much work is necessary to understand how to determine the need for transplant in these patients before it is too late, how to effectively care for these patients after transplant and prevent them from getting COVID-19 again, and understanding how the virus causes such a profound damage. Your generosity makes such efforts possible.
Every Donation Matters
When you support Northwestern Memorial Foundation, you make it possible for world-class physician-scientists at Northwestern Medicine to turn breakthrough research into innovative medical practice. You fuel medical advancements and leading-edge treatments that help patients survive and thrive, now and into the future.