UT Health, Memorial Hermann doctors save dying man with coronavirus by performing rare double lung transplant

FILE - In this July 6, 2020, air is pumped by hand inside a Coronavirus Unit in a Houston hospital. Hospital data related to the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. will now be collected by a private technology firm, rather than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention a move the Trump administration says will speed up reporting but one that concerns some public health leaders. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File) (David J. Phillip, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

THE WOODLANDS, Texas – UT Health and Memorial Hermann are the first in Texas to perform a double lung transplant that saved the life of a man suffering from COVID-19.

“I am very grateful,” Francisco Medellin said.

He is a retired construction worker who lived with diabetes and had no other underlying health conditions, according to Memorial Hermann.

After he was diagnosed with COVID-19 in June, he developed acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and continued to get worse.

According to associate professor of medicine with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, Dr. Soma Jyothula, Medellin’s lungs had basically died but the rest of his body was still alive.

Last month, Dr. Jyothula and a team from UT Health performed the double lung transplant one day after Medellin went on the waiting list, according to Memorial Hermann.

The hospital said doctors tried unsuccessfully to treat him with steroids, Remdesivir, and convalescent plasma for six weeks.

“Once we pass the six weeks, we know that the lungs are not going to heal. Now, what do we do with them? That’s where we are stuck. Very few percentage of the people where we identify beyond the lung disease, they don’t have any other significant medical problems which would make a transplant surgery complicated or affect their chance of recovering from the surgery, can be chosen to undergo bilateral lung transplantation,” said Dr. Jyothula.

Which means it can’t be done that often. Medellin’s operation is one of the very few in the world that has happened during the pandemic.

However, Medellin is an exceptional patient. According to UT Health, he immediately began physical therapy and thriving in good health.

Medellin credits his faith and family.

“I want God to grant me the ability to see my grandkids in their youth and see them grow up,” he said. “May God allow them to live a long time and that they remain as they are now, very good people.”

Medellin was the primary caregiver for his wife. He has nine children and 32 grandchildren, and he said he cannot wait to be with them again.

He is currently working towards a full recovery at a rehab hospital.

While it’s a phenomenal operation, Dr. Jyothula said he never wants to have to do a double lung transplant because of this virus again. He said, currently the best treatment for coronavirus is prevention.