Surgeons at Indiana University Health completed their first COVID-19 related lung transplant. It is a major milestone and remarkable story of recovery for a local man.
Kevin Lloyd describes himself as a “walking miracle.” The 60-year-old Greenwood man says despite taking all the recommend COVID-19 precautions, he still contracted the virus and spent weeks in the ICU.
“I didn't realize how bad it was going to affect me, well nobody does,” said Lloyd.
Doctors say Lloyd was otherwise healthy and very active. They’re not sure why he had such a severe response to COVID-19.
“Statistically someone his age and general health you’d expect to do very well, and for reasons I, nor anybody else can explain, he did very poorly. He had a very intense inflammatory response that progressed to a very intense inflammation and fibrosis to the point his lungs were terribly scarred,” said Dr. Chad Denlinger, Chief of Thoracic Surgery at Methodist and IU and Surgical Director of the Lung Transplant Program at IU Health.
At one point, doctors told Lloyd he may not survive the virus.
“It was scary thinking about ok, I got a week left,” said Lloyd.
That is when his wife, Debbie, who had just lost her father to COVID-19 started pushing for husband to have a lung transplant and he was transferred to IU Health.
“Rewind one year he was in great shape, just a normal, healthy 60-year-old guy. Very quickly he became terribly sick. Without a transplant he would not have made it out of the hospital,” said Dr. Denlinger.
So they moved forward with the first COVID-19 lung transplant. That was February 14th. Now, just over a month later, he is back at home, walking and doing physical therapy to regain strength.
“People ask me, what was it like taking your first breath? And it was kind of overwhelming,” said Lloyd.
And with each breath since then, Lloyd feels a sense of gratitude. Not only for his family and the doctors and nurses who cared for him but for the organ donor as well. He’s told it was a young man in his 20s.
“He saved my life,” said Lloyd. “It is a gift and I thank God that I am sitting here right now.”
Lloyd hopes to eventually meet the family of the organ donor to thank them for the gift of life their loved one's lungs has provided.