HOUSTON – With hospital visitor restrictions in place, one Houston family camped out in the hospital parking lot. They wanted to be near their loved one, a Houston woman who survived life-saving transplant surgery during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Before my surgery, I was throwing up blood. I didn’t think I was going to make it through the day,” said transplant patient Kandice Blythe. “I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t do anything. It was scary.”
Blythe’s liver disease was at its worse, right as the COVID-19 heated up in Houston.
“Not knowing what was going to happen day one to day two,” she said.
“It can be a rollercoaster ride for the patient,” said Dr. John Goss, St. Luke’s Medical Center, Medical Director of Transplantation Services. “The whole COVID process has changed the way we look at donor organs. Now our donors have to have both a COVID screen and a CT of the chest. So we didn’t bring back an organ that potentially had a COVID infection.”
Blythe’s liver transplant finally came in late March at Baylor St. Luke’s in Houston.
“They came in and said they had a liver and my surgery was set for 10 and it was 8:45. Everything went extremely fast,” said Blythe. “My kids were upset that they couldn’t be with me.”
During her surgery and in the days following, her family waited in the parking lot, sending videos of support.
“When I had my transplant, I wasn’t allowed to have anyone," Blythe said. “They all sat outside the hospital in the parking lot. Every hour they had videos of that day of them saying they loved me. I cried throughout the entire time looking at my phone.”
Goss expects Blythe to make a full recovery.
“With even all of the extra things that have to go into a transplant, the survival is about 90 percent for all of the organs so the patient can expect to do well,” he said. “Transplant, in my opinion, is the greatest part of medicine because you can actually cure someone from a disease that otherwise was going to take their life.”
“It was so scary, but I made it. Thank goodness,” said Blythe.