COVID-19 patient receives lung, kidney transplant at Stanford: 'Great family story'

With lungs, and kidneys failing, he says doctors in Washington state gave his father little chance of survival. Rarely leaving his bedside, Patrick didn't give up, emailing major transplant centers including Stanford.
PALO ALTO, Calif. (KGO) -- Patrick Shannon watched as his father John experienced some of the worst impact of COVID-19. First the infection, then an immune response so severe, it ravaged his organs.

"If you would have looked at him the first day I saw him, you would not have believed he was alive," says Patrick.

With lungs, and kidneys failing, he says doctors in Washington state gave his father little chance of survival. Rarely leaving his bedside, Patrick didn't give up, emailing major transplant centers including Stanford. But Dr. John MacArthur, M.D. says they initially had concerns as well.

"We actually did a video phone call to see what was going on with his father. And he was so weak he couldn't even lift his head up off the pillow," says Dr. MacArthur

But they left the door open to a transplant if John could regain strength. The process took months of recovery, and more video phone calls

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"And we were thrilled. I was thrilled to get a call when he was able to lift his head off the bed and interact with the medical team that was taking care of him and sit up a little bit. And we said alright, let's bring him down," Dr. MacArthur remembers.

Challenges still lay ahead.

A surgical team, including Dr. Joseph Woo, M.D. would ultimately spend parts of two days, first performing a lung transplant, then a kidney transplant. He says the destructive toll from the COVID-19 infection was clearly visible on the operating table.

"Obviously this is the first COVID-destroyed lungs I've transplanted. It's pretty destructive. It really, really just disintegrated his lungs," Dr. Woo explained.

Patrick remembers the waiting.

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"I didn't go to sleep that night. Around 2:20 in the morning, one of their surgeons called me to tell me that the transplant went perfectly well," he says.

From temporary housing near Stanford his son showed us the ankle weights and exercise bicycle that he's been using since the double transplant. Free of COVID, and with new lungs and a kidney, John threw himself into the challenging process of rehabbing his body. The results so far are nothing short of remarkable.

"Yeah, amazing, he looks amazing," says Patrick.

After months hooked to machines, John now walks without aid, taking strides towards a new life. It's a recovery that Stanford doctors attribute in large part to the determination of his son.

"He was at his bedside nearly the whole time his father was in the hospital," Dr. MacArthur remembers.

"This is a great medical story, but it's also a great family story. This son is a true advocate and a savior," added Dr. Woo.

Though his voice is still weak, John's feelings for his son were just as strong, as we watched him hug his son near the end our visit.

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John will still be followed by Stanford doctors for the near future, but he Patrick are looking forward to returning home to Washington state.

The family has created a Go Fund Me page to help with medical expenses.

https://www.gofundme.com/f/dyk2p-he-will-be-disconnected-even-though-he-is-alive
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