Former UNCW student with COVID-19 gets nation’s 1st double lung transplant


WILMINGTON,NC (WWAY) — Doctors in Chicago performed the first successful double lung transplant on a COVID-19 patient. The patient, Mayra Ramirez, a 28-year-old woman from Sampson County who also previously attended UNC-Wilmington.

Monday, Ramirez’s sister shared her family’s story with WWAY.

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Kate Ramirez says she put all her faith in God and waited for good news.

“On June 3, they told us, if we wanted to see her for the last time, to rush and get there because they didn’t think she was going to make it past that day,” Kate said.

Kate remembers rushing to find a flight from North Carolina to Chicago as doctors warned coronavirus was killing her sister, Mayra, who spent six weeks on a ventilator and life support machine.

The day before doctors tried to clear her airways and it wasn’t successful.

“They ended up hitting her kidney, so her kidney was bleeding out,” Kate said.

That morning everything was fine, but Kate says, by the afternoon, doctors said Mayra was still bleeding, so the family caught a flight and prayed.

Kate says only Mayra’s mother and boyfriend were allowed in the hospital for last “goodbye’s.”

“So, when they arrived to the hospital, the nurses quickly talked to them and said that she wasn’t at end of life anymore,” Kate said. “They don’t know how or what happened, but a miracle happened and they were able to stabilize her.”

But her lungs were severely damaged.

Kate says doctors told the family a double lung transplant was her only chance of survival. But, then another miracle —  Kate says that night a donor was found.

On June 5, Mayra went through a 10-hour double transplant lung surgery at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago becoming the first known lung transplant in the US for COVID-19.

Kate says, with God, anything is possible.

“I actually got to see her yesterday,” Kate said. “I haven’t seen her since February. I was with her all day. She gets so happy. She just had a big smile.”

The family is asking for help in paying medical bills not covered by insurance.

If you would like to help Mayra and her family, visit here.