COVID-to-COVID lung transplant recipient describes historic experience

Renato Aquino of Glendale Heights once belted out karaoke songs, but COVID-19 destroyed his lungs.

Video Transcript

RENATO AQUINO: I feel wonderful.

STACY BACA: Renato Aquino of Glendale Heights is making medical history.

RENATO AQUINO: I can say more, but here I am.

STACY BACA: At 65, Aquino is the first known COVID-19 patient to receive both lungs from a COVID donor, his life in the hands of Northwestern Medicine.

RENATO AQUINO: I survived because of this behind.

STACY BACA: Before COVID-19, he belted out karaoke songs. But exactly one year ago, the phlebotomists who worked with COVID patients found himself in a hospital bed near death.

TASHA SUNDSTROM: I actually went to the funeral home. I did all the arrangements. And then the next day, he proved us wrong. He wanted to live. So who are we?

STACY BACA: For months he clung to life until his niece heard about Northwestern's lung transplant program.

ANKIT BHARAT: Renato was running out of options and running out of time. So we knew that this was probably his only and last option.

STACY BACA: On February 25, he went to surgery.


STACY BACA: For the first time, Northwestern's team took lungs from a donor who recovered from COVID-19. The donor died of a drug overdose. And after multiple tests and a biopsy, the doctors concluded the lungs were healthy.

RAFAEL GARZE-CASTILLON: Currently many transplant centers are concerned about the risk of transmission of COVID-19 from a donor to recipient. Mr Aquino's story clarifies the safety of the use of these donors.

STACY BACA: Northwestern surgeons have completed 20 double lung transplants on COVID-19 survivors. That is the most of any hospital in the world. And all 20, including Mr. Aquino, are expected to make a full recovery. After rehab and getting discharged May 5, he's back.

TASHA SUNDSTROM: Look at him now. He's going to be doing karaoke soon.

STACY BACA: At Northwestern Medicine, Stacy Baca.

RENATO AQUINO: I'm going to be a singer with a beautiful voice.

STACY BACA: ABC7 Eyewitness News.