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COVID-19 patients who were first in US to undergo double lung transplants at Northwestern share their stories

Lisa Schencker, Chicago Tribune on

Published in News & Features

Ramirez, who is now at home, said she's feeling much better, though she's still working to rebuild her strength and endurance. She still feels fatigued doing everyday tasks.

Before she fell ill, she said, she was an independent, active person. She moved to Chicago in 2014, after growing up in a small, rural town in North Carolina, to work as a paralegal. She had an autoimmune condition but was otherwise healthy.

She loved spending time with her two dogs. She admitted to eating junk food on occasion, but exercised. Shortly before becoming ill, she went on a 3-mile run.

When Gov. J.B. Pritzker implemented the stay-at-home order in March, she started working from home.

But soon, she started to feel sick. She lost her senses of taste and smell, felt dizzy and had headaches. One day, she fainted, and decided it was time to go to the emergency room.

When she arrived, "Everything happened so quickly," she said.


"I was told to hurry up (and) change," she said. "I was asked who would be making my medical decisions for me. That's when I told them it would be my mother and eldest sister who all live in North Carolina. I only had a couple minutes to contact them to let them know what was going on before I was intubated."

Ultimately, she spent six weeks in intensive care at Northwestern. She underwent the lung transplant on June 5. She didn't wake up until mid-June.

She didn't know at first that she had undergone a lung transplant.

"I looked at myself and couldn't recognize my body," she said. "I didn't have the cognitive ability to process what was going on. All I knew was that I wanted water."


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