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Coronavirus denier spent 100 days on life support before a risky procedure saved him

BGR — Chris Smith
  • Coronavirus treatment options are still limited since there’s no vaccine available, and no cure that can speed up recovery or reduce complications.
  • Some COVID-19 patients experience complications so serious that their lungs may be destroyed in the process. The only way to save them is a lung transplant, a risky procedure that not all patients have access to.
  • A team of doctors from Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago performed double lung transplants on patients, including one coronavirus denier who refused to wear a mask. The man spent 100 days on machines before getting access to the life-saving transplant procedure.

COVID-19 deniers are among the worst and most unexpected side-effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic. People who don’t believe the virus is real refuse to take steps to protect themselves against infection, putting their lives and the lives of others at risk. One denier from Texas spread the illness to his entire family recently, costing at least one relative her life.

It’s often too late that they realize the illness is real and can lead to death. And it’s usually only after contracting the virus themselves. One such man spent 100 days on ventilation machines before getting a life-saving double lung transplant, the kind of radical treatment that’s not available to all severe COVID-19 patients. Before the whole ordeal, he thought the virus was a hoax and refused to wear a mask. Now he wants the world to know his story.

The image below shows a comparison between healthy human lungs and a lung that has been destroyed by the coronavirus and subsequent bacterial infections.

If it looks familiar, that’s because the damaged lung on the right belongs to a 28-year-old patient who became the first COVID-19 survivor to receive new lungs as a last resort that saved her life. We heard the story back in early June when a team at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago performed the surgery successfully. At the time, we didn’t even know the name of the patient or whether she would survive.

A series of reports this week profiled the intervention and her recovery, and we learned that Mayra Ramirez is a paralegal who worked from home in the first months of the pandemic. She protected herself as much as possible but ended up in the hospital on a ventilator. “I’m pretty sure that if I had been at another center, they would have just ended care and let me die,” she said in an interview. Dr. Ankit Bharat performed the surgery that saved her life, and it wasn’t long until other patients sought similar treatments.

That’s the case with 62-year-old Brian Kuhns, who underwent transplant surgery on July 5th after spending 100 days on life support machines. Before being infected, he thought the disease was not real, as his wife Nancy revealed in a statement released by the hospital.

“No one can prepare you for the emotional toll COVID-19 takes on a family. Not being able to see, touch, or hold your loved one as they’re fighting for their life in the ICU is extremely difficult,” Nancy Kuhns said. “Before COVID-19, Brian was a pretty healthy guy who loved music, cars, and making people laugh. But he also thought COVID-19 was a hoax. I assure you; Brian’s tune has now changed. COVID-19 is not a hoax. It almost killed my husband.”

Brian Kuhns chimed in as well. “Everything happened so quickly. One minute I’m running my business, and the next minute I’m spending 100 days on a life support machine,” he said. “I’m extremely grateful for the care team at my original hospital who put me on ECMO, and I can’t thank the lung transplant team at Northwestern Medicine enough. Without them, I know I wouldn’t be here today. If my story can teach you one thing, it’s that COVID-19 isn’t a joke. Please take this seriously.”

Kuns told NBC News he never wore a mask before being infected because he didn’t believe the illness was real.

“I was perfectly healthy,” he said, wearing a mask during the interview. He said COVID-19 took him down hard, and it’s not a joke, as Nancy added that it’s not a hoax. Not everyone will be as lucky as Ramirez and Kuhns when it comes to this type of radical treatment. Patients who qualify for lung transplants will have to wait for matching donors, and then they’ll be on therapies that ensure the body doesn’t reject their new lungs for their entire lives. What’s more, patients who take COVID-19 seriously and protect themselves could still end up catching a severe case, but coronavirus deniers like Kuhns may end up taking the resources and treatments they so desperately need. Kuhns quite literally might have cost another person his or her life by being so foolish and reckless.

Bharat explained to The New York Times the delicacy of the procedure. Waiting too long to recommend a transplant might ruin the chances of a patient to get the surgery, as other complications can appear. On the other hand, recovery is still possible in some patients and doctors should not recommend transplants too early. There’s also the matter of medical insurance to consider, as some companies might not want to cover the surgery or pay associates expenses.

Rather than running the risk of going down this road, you should consider doing everything in your power to protect yourself and your loved ones. Keep your distance from others, wear a face mask whenever you’re outside your home, and keep washing your hands often. COVID-19 is real, and it can spread to anyone with terrifying ease.

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