Special Report: Teen survives COVID-19, undergoes double-lung transplant

Local News

BROWNSVILLE, Texas (KVEO) — A Brownsville teen who battled COVID-19 for months received a double lung transplant to save his life.

Jose Chavez is a 17-year-old who fought the virus for four months. When his lungs began to give out, doctors said he would need a double-lung transplant.

Jose didn’t know what was going to happen if he got it.

“They told me I had a 99% chance of making it out of surgery, still there was that 1% chance of something going wrong,” he said.

With the virus being unpredictable, Jose’s family was in constant fear of what could happen. 

“This disease is day by day. We don’t know how to treat it or what to give them,” said Ana Chavez, Jose’s mother. Doctors would tell her they had to take this disease day by day since there is no medication to cure it.

Jose underwent the surgery at the age of 16 and is thought to be the youngest COVID-19 patient in the world to undergo this surgical procedure, according to doctors at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center in Houston.

While Jose’s journey is different, his doctors said there was still the fear of reinfection.

“It was a fear that just a small particle of the virus left behind could re-infect the new lungs and then affect them,” said Dr. Gabriel Loor, Surgical Director for the Lung Transplant Program at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center.

Jose is feeling much better and can finally breathe, unlike the first weeks with the virus. Dr. Loor said his recovery was impressive, considering the state he was in. 

“He actually got back in the saddle pretty quickly,” Dr. Loor said. “He got up, he started working with physical therapy and his recovery definitely was faster than what I was anticipating.”  

Now that Jose has been given a second chance at life, he wants to use his time to give back to the community. 

“I wanted to be a surgeon, so now I really want to become a surgeon because I’ve noticed, especially with the ECMO, there aren’t many resources in Brownsville, and the people that are getting more affected are down here,” said Jose.

Through it all, Jose is staying positive and recovering with the help of his family.

Doctors add residents wanting to help patients like Jose, should register to become organ donors.

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