Lung transplant: 18 year old rescued after coronavirus


A record transplant, which is slowly allowing Francesco, 18, to return to life. After he spent two months attached to a respirator and risked dying from Covid-19. It happens at the Polyclinic in Milan, where Francesco (invented name) underwent a delicate operation two weeks ago, to replace his lungs completely burned by Sars-Cov-2 with those of an anonymous donor, negative to the virus, which allowed save his life. Such a path had never been attempted before in Europe, and the surgeons of the Milanese Polyclinic took inspiration from what was done in China, the first country in the world hit by the pandemic.


Francesco’s story begins in early March: on 2 March he begins to have a fever, the Sars-Cov-2 epidemic in Lombardy has broken out for a couple of weeks. Within four days, from healthy he becomes so serious as to be hospitalized in Intensive Care at San Raffaele, in the new ward built in via Olgettina in a tensile structure thanks to the crowfunding started by Fedez and Chiara Ferraghi. The boy’s condition does not improve despite the assisted ventilation of the respirator, they worsen to the point that on March 23 it is necessary to connect it to an Ecmo machine, which allows extracorporeal circulation and oxygenation of the blood which, alone, the patient is no longer in able to complete.


The situation is desperate, Francesco is one of the very few patients so young ended up in ICU and engaged in a fight for life against the virus. It is to try to save his life, then, that the San Raffaele doctors contact his colleagues at the Polyclinic of Milan and, together, decide to try a road never attempted before in Europe at the time (in the past weeks a similar case has then occurred in Austria), but only in China: a lung transplant to allow the boy to breathe again. The organization of the surgical intervention, carried out by the Thoracic and Lung Transplant Surgery of the Polyclinic of Milan directed by Mario Nosotti, it is complex.For the desperate conditions of the young patient, but also given the practical difficulties of performing such a delicate operation with the necessary protections to protect the sanitary ware from contagion. Operational coordination is ensured by the National Transplant Center in synergy with the Lombardy Regional Transplant Center and the Northern Italy transplant program, the young person is included in the national list of patients who need a transplant on 30 April. The research begins, which finally allows the intervention two weeks ago.


The operation took place after the delicate transport of the patient from the San Raffaele Intensive Care Unit, carried out by the experts in via Olgettina, to the operating room set up ad hoc at the Policlinico: there it was carried out by a team that, to avoid contagion, was she was forced to operate on helmets for ventilation, with changes of doctors and nurses at regular intervals to allow everyone to catch their breath and be able to operate safely.
The transplant succeeds, and after 12 hours the patient is disconnected from the extracorporeal circulation: today he is still hospitalized but gradually, thanks to physiotherapy, he is weaned from the use of the ventilator to go back to breathing on his own. The path is still long, two months and more of Intensive Care leave their mark, even on such a young patient. But there seems to be a future now.

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