A doctor struck down by Covid-19 while treating critically ill coronavirus patients says he has been given a “second chance to live” after doctors in India performed double lung transplant surgery.
Dr Sanath Kumar, 30, an anaesthetist at a private hospital in Bangalore, had been working to support patients as a deadly second wave threatened to overwhelm services in May when he too contracted the virus.
Dr Kumar took a Covid-19 test, which came back positive, after suffering a fever and cough while on frontline duty.
His illness caused his oxygen levels to drop rapidly as severe damage was caused to his lungs, leaving him needing urgent transplant surgery.
He was put on a ventilator before being referred to Aster CMI Hospital in Bangalore, where he was kept under close observation for more than three weeks before it was decided he needed a double lung transplant.
Thankfully, a suitable donor was found in a matter of weeks, and doctors were given the go-ahead to carry out the operation.
A team of critical care consultants, pulmonologists and lung transplant surgeons was assembled to lead the procedure, which was a first for Bangalore.
A life-threatening situation
Dr Sandeep Attawar, chairman and director of thoracic organ transplants at Krishna Institute of Medical Sciences in Hyderabad was part of the medical task force.
“A double lung transplant is a gruelling surgery and was the only solution for Dr Sanath, who experienced a life-threatening combination of lung damage caused by the covid-19 virus, an exaggerated immune response to it, and the body’s failure to properly repair the injury,” said Dr Attawar, who has performed hundreds of transplants during his distinguished career and also leads an organ transplant unit at Burjeel Medical City in Abu Dhabi.
Dr V Arun, lead consultant for anaesthesia and critical care at Aster CMI Hospital, admits a transplant was the “last option” for Dr Sanath – but it proved successful.
“Dr Sanath’s case was both emotionally and clinically challenging,” said Dr Arun.
“Being from the same fraternity working with Covid patients it was difficult to see a colleague whose lung damage had progressed so far.
India grapples with Covid-19 challenge
“When he was referred to Aster CMI, he was intubated and was on 100 per cent oxygen support but barely having enough oxygen in his bloodstream to survive.
“A transplant was the last option. Luckily he remained stable over the next few weeks while we waited for a suitable donor match for him. We were able to find a suitable match after four weeks and he underwent a lung transplant.”
Dr Kumar’s progress was monitored for weeks to ensure he faced no setbacks to his health following the major operation.
The doctor was treated for three and half-months at the hospital and believes he owes his life to the diligent work of its medical staff.
Dr Kumar is now recovering well at home with his family, but must stay indoors to minimise the risk of infection.
“When I tested positive and started taking medicines, I thought “I will recover soon”. I had never imagined that I would suffer severely and end up having a lung transplant,” said Dr Kumar.
“I want to thank all the doctors, surgeons, nurses and other staff at Aster CMI for their support and giving me a second chance to live. I also want to extend my gratitude to my family who stood by me in this journey. Without their help all of this would have not been possible.”
Doctor’s Covid-19 battle
Dr Kumar tested positive for Covid-19 on May 7
He was admitted to an intensive care unit on May 21
He required intubation – a procedure used when you can’t breathe on your own – on May 27
He was transferred to Aster CMI and put on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation on May 28
Dr Kumar had double transplant surgery on June 22
He was discharged from hospital on September 7 and is continuing his recovery at home