CLEVELAND, OH — The number of lung transplants for patients with severe COVID-19 cases increases during the pandemic. A transplant doctor explains the cause and how to protect yourself from the virus and it creates new challenges for doctors along the way.
“COVID-19 has really struck the transplant community in a very unique way, from the donor side of things to the recipient side of things. So we’ve had to think about the donors that we are taking to transplant. And for a while there, we thought donor activity would actually become an issue and that we wouldn’t have enough donors,” said Marie Budev, MD, medical director of lung transplantation for Cleveland Clinic.
COVID-19, according to Dr. Budev, can cause permanent lung damage due to the virus's inflammatory response. Patients with this type of damage are frequently dependent on a ventilator or oxygen and are unable to recover on their own.
Prior to a transplant, extensive testing is performed. Dr. Budev stated that they ensure that the organ is not only healthy, but also that there are no signs of COVID-19 infection.
She added that the other major concern is ensuring that the recipient does not contract any illnesses after they have recovered. That is why she continues to emphasize the importance of wearing a mask, social distancing, hand washing, and getting vaccinated.
“If people would just get vaccinated, you could save your own life and in many cases, you could save somebody else’s life that you don’t even know you ended up saving because you would not be infected or be an a-symptomatic carrier. I just urge people listen to facts, listen to science, take the vaccine,” said Dr. Budev.
She believes it is critical to consider becoming a donor if you haven't already. According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, more than 107,000 people in the United States require a life-saving organ transplant.