First COVID-19 Patient in the U.S. to Undergo Double-Lung Transplant Returns Home

Mayra Ramirez, 28, contracted COVID-19 in April and was on a ventilator for six weeks before receiving a double-lung transplant at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago

Mayra Ramirez, Chicago Woman, 28, Becomes First COVID-19 Patient in the U.S. to Undergo Rare Double Lung Transplant
Mayra Ramirez. Photo: GoFundMe

A 28-year-old woman from Chicago, the first COVID-19 patient in the United States to receive a double-lung transplant, has been released from the hospital and returned home.

Mayra Ramirez, a paralegal for a law firm specializing in immigration, contracted the novel coronavirus in April "even while trying her very best to protect herself from it," according to a GoFundMe page created to help with medical expenses.

Ramirez, who was immunocompromised prior to contracting the virus, was hospitalized at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, where she spent six weeks on a ventilator due to significant damage to her lungs.

"I thought I’d just be there for a couple of days, max, and get back to my normal life,” she told The New York Times in an interview published Thursday.

"The entire time, I had nightmares,” she added.

With Ramirez's mother in charge of her medical decisions, doctors arranged on June 5 for the 28-year-old to become the first COVID-19 patient to receive a double-lung transplant in the United States.

According to the GoFundMe page, Ramirez's surgical team was "shocked" when they saw the "level of damage COVID-19 dealt to her lungs and body" in the operating room.

Ramirez told the Times she woke up "with all these tubes coming out of me, and I just couldn’t recognize my own body."

The Chicago resident said she was shocked when she learned all that transpired, most notably that it was early June, rather than early May which she initially thought when she woke up.

"I couldn’t process it,” she said. “I was just struggling to breathe and I was thirsty. It wasn’t until weeks later that I could be grateful, and think there was a family out there who had lost someone.”

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Ramirez is now able to breathe on her own and has donated her lungs for medical research. On Wednesday, she was released from the hospital.

"I’m pretty sure that if I had been at another center, they would have just ended care and let me die," Ramirez said.

As of Thursday morning, the GoFundMe page for Ramirez's medical costs has raised over $30,500 from over 500 donors.

Ramirez wants others with COVID-19 to know that lung transplantation is an option for patients near death.

“I definitely feel like I have a purpose,” she told the Times. “It may be to help other people going through the same situation that I am, maybe even just sharing my story and helping young people realize that if this happened to me it could happen to them, and to protect themselves and protect others around them who are more vulnerable.”

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.

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