Almost six months after going into hospital with Covid-19, and a double-lung transplant as a last resort, patient is heading home

Staff members congratulate Victor Gonzales-Villatoro on his discharge at UK. (Photo by Hilary Brown)

By Hilary Brown
University of Kentucky

Staff at UK HealthCare gathered Wednesday to celebrate the discharge of patient Victor Gonzales-Villatoro, who was hospitalized with Covid-19 in October. The disease ravaged his lungs, Victor’s family was told he had almost no chance of survival, and they considered withdrawing life support.

As a last effort, UK doctors considered Victor a candidate for a double lung transplant and placed him on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) to see if his body could recover enough to withstand the transplant surgery.

For several months, while on ECMO, Victor remained unconscious. He awoke, and with a determined spirit, worked hard to gain the strength to receive a transplant — including getting up and walking while still connected to ECMO. On March 1, after five months on ECMO, Victor, 37, got a new set of lungs. Within a week, he was off the ventilator and walking.

Victor’s fighting spirit and unwavering determination endeared him to his care providers. After almost six months in the hospital, Victor was discharged amid a chorus of cheers and applause. He will spend the next few weeks at Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital in Lexington, where he will work to regain his strength and endurance.

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