SALINAS, Calif. (KION) A family is hoping their father, a Salinas native, will be able to get a life-saving lung transplant after COVID-19 damaged his lungs.
Lupe Rodriguez's family told KION he went to the hospital just days after feeling symptoms.
“He needed to go into the E.R. because his cough had developed into a more complicated cough that was making it hard to breathe, and that was August 10, and ever since then, he’s been in the hospital,” said Maria Carpenter-Rodriguez his ex-wife and friend.
She said the illness progressed after a couple weeks and they were told he was running out of options.
“To have to go back to and relay to our children that there’s a chance they have to say goodbye to their dad, that wasn’t easy,” Maria said.
But then, some hope for the family came; one of the doctors helping Lupe said a lung transplant was an option. That led them to Northwestern Medicine in Chicago. The health care system has done six lung transplants so far. The medical group said one of their COVID-19 patients was able to get the life saving procedure within just a few days of being listed.
Maria and their daughter Natisha drove to Chicago to help care for Lupe. They had to leave behind their children with family and put Maria's catering business on hold to make the trip.
He will have to meet certain criteria to get on the transplant list, including testing negative for the virus, but the family isn’t giving up hope.
Dr. Mario Cole, a pulmonary disease specialist with Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital, told KION COVID-19 can cause inflammatory damage to the lungs in the acute phase. Some medications can treat it, but a lung transplant is the last resort.
“We do have patients that will require supplemental oxygen. I have some patients that were sick 4 months ago that are still on supplemental oxygen,” Dr. Cole said.
About 15 percent of those infected with the virus require hospitalization and 5 percent become severely ill requiring other treatments, according to Dr. Cole. He said prevention is key and stressed the importance of following the guidelines. Washing your hands and social distancing, among other precautions, can help avoid the grim sides of the virus.
“This is an illness that you actually don’t want to acquire. Once you have it, there are ways to deal with it but certainly, I’ve seen patients do very poorly with this illness,” Dr. Cole said.
The Rodriguez family said insurance has helped cover a portion of his hospital treatment, but the family created a Go Fund Me to help cover remaining expenses.