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

Victor Gonzales Villatoro is now the sixth COVID-19 patient to receive this procedure at UK...
Victor Gonzales Villatoro is now the sixth COVID-19 patient to receive this procedure at UK Healthcare. His doctors credit their teamwork and even more, Villatoro’s fighting spirit.(UK Healthcare)
Published: Mar. 23, 2022 at 10:39 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - After weeks in a coma, a central Kentucky man is finally going home, and he’s 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 even more, Villatoro’s fighting spirit.

“Today, he walked out of the hospital. And he showed us that this could be done,” said Dr. Sravanthi Nandavaram.

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

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

Dr. Nandavaram, the medical director of the lung transplant program at UK Healthcare, said Villatoro was in a coma for months, while doctors waited to see if his body could ever get strong enough to be considered for a transplant.

Eight weeks later, Villatoro woke up. He started doing physical therapy and rehab, and eventually got on the transplant list at the end of December. The best news of all came two months later.

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

Villatoro is only the sixth COVID-19 patient to receive a double lung transplant at UK. The first ever in the country was done in August of 2021. Since then, Dr. Nandavaram says Villatoro now joins a community of just a little more than 3,000 people who have gone through the same experience.

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

Villatoro’s life will be forever altered, taking pills daily and countless more doctor visits.

“But he said it’s worth it, whatever he does, to be with his wife and his kids,” Dr. Nandavaram said.

Villatoro will spend the next two weeks at Cardinal Hill for rehab, then he’ll make regular visits at the UK Healthcare clinic.

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