33-year-old survives double lung transplant after 6 months on ECMO

A surgeon at Houston Methodist said he performed one of the most difficult transplants he’s ever seen.

HOUSTON – Andrew Capen, 33, is the recipient of a miraculous double lung transplant after battling COVID-19.

Houston Methodist Hospital said he is one of the longest surviving patients on ECMO, a machine that basically works in place of your lungs once they’ve been so damaged they won’t work anymore. Capen survived on ECMO for six months before receiving new lungs.

While the end result is wonderful, Capen said it was a dark, lonely time in the hospital leading up to it.

“You know, you weren’t able to see your family for a good part of that,” he explained “and it’s so easy to give up… but you think about your family and you think about what your death would do to them.”

He said he suffered hallucinations and felt hopeless.

His surgeon, surgical director of lung transplantation at Houston Methodist Dr. Eddie Suarez, said it’s a difficult operation under normal circumstances but because Capen’s health was deteriorating it was almost impossible.

“I’m happy we were able to get him through it and he’s doing well and to see his mother’s reaction after I got to tell her that everything went well with the lung transplants is extremely fulfilling,” Dr. Suarez said.

Capen now has a second chance at life and expressed gratitude for the donor saying, “I’m not gonna waste them.”

Houston Methodist said there have been 21 double lung transplants worldwide since the pandemic began and there are several more patients at their hospital waiting for the same procedure.