Ky. man receives double lung transplant after months-long battle with COVID-19

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) – After weeks in a coma, a central Kentucky man is finally going home and leaving the hospital with a new set of lungs.

Victor Gonzales Villatoro is now the sixth COVID-19 patient to receive this procedure at UK Healthcare. His doctors credit their teamwork and more so, Villatoro’s fighting spirit.

“Today he was discharged from the hospital. And he showed us that it can be done,” said Dr Sravanthi Nandavaram.

Five months ago, Villatoro’s family learned that he had almost no chance of survival. He was hospitalized in October. Admitted with COVID-19, the disease had ravaged his lungs.

“It was his wife who had to make the difficult decision. She gave us permission to put him on ECMO and do the lung transplant assessment,” Dr Nandavaram said.

Dr Nandavaram, medical director of UK Healthcare’s lung transplant programme, said Villatoro had been in a coma for months as doctors waited to see if his body could ever become strong enough to be considered for a transplant.

Eight weeks later, Villatoro woke up. He started doing physiotherapy and rehabilitation, and was finally put on the transplant list at the end of December. The best news of all came two months later.

“We kept looking for lungs and eventually he got an offer and he was transplanted on March 1,” Dr Nandavaram said.

Villatoro is just the sixth COVID-19 patient to receive a double lung transplant in the UK. The very first in the country was carried out in August 2021. Since then, Dr Nandavaram says Villatoro now joins a community of just over 3,000 people who have had the same experience.

“He has to go home. He is out of the machines. He’s not on oxygen. He spends the rest of his life with his family,” Dr Nandavaram said.

Villatoro’s life will be changed forever, taking pills daily and countless visits to the doctor.

“But he said it was worth it no matter what he did to be with his wife and children,” Dr Nandavaram said.

Villatoro will spend the next two weeks in Cardinal Hill for rehab, after which he will make regular visits to the UK Healthcare clinic.

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