Utah nurse receives double lung transplant after contracting COVID-19

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A nurse who saved lives during the pandemic nearly lost her own life to the coronavirus, her only option was a double lung transplant.

Utah intensive care nurse Jill Hansen Holker spent months taking care of the sickest COVID-19 patients, but in November, the 43-year-old became infected with the virus.

The mother of 3 and a marathon runner with no underlying conditions was fighting for her life. Doctors said her lungs were essentially not working anymore.

“I couldn’t believe that it got to this point. That’s only for people who are older and sicker. I was admitted to my ICU and even my coworkers were just dumbfounded that I was so, so sick.” Said Jill Hansen Holker, Double Lung Transplant patient.

“We are seeing more and more patients in this situation. Those lungs are irreversibly damaged and the only option of leaving the hospital alive will be through a double lung transplant.” Said Dr. Tiago Machuca, Chief, Division of Thoracic Surgery at UF Health Shands Hospital.

Surgeon Tiago Machuca says an international registry shows more than 30 COVID survivors have gone through the procedure.

Jill was transferred to UF Health Shands Hospital in Florida and put on the transplant list.
She received her new lungs about a month ago.

“Her first question, when am I going to run my next marathon? So that just showed how strong she’s mental, how strong she is physically.” Said Dr. Tiago Machuca.

She recently walked out of the hospital to cheers from the staff.

She’ll now have 3 months of rehab in Florida before returning to Utah and her children.

“They’re ready for me to come home. And thanks to these guys here, I get to actually get to go home. They gave me a second life, so super grateful.” Said Hansen.

A long fight that’s not over yet, but one Jill determined to win.

UF Health’s system has performed more than 10 double lung transplants on COVID-19 patients to date.

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