Lung transplant recipient recounts ordeal with COVID-19

AKRON, Ohio (WPVI) -- We know people with compromised immune systems are at a greater risk for complications due to COVID-19. That includes transplant recipients.

Nick Hunter, 24, is no stranger to life-threatening medical problems.

He was born with cystic fibrosis, a disease that attacks the lungs. Four years ago, he had a double lung transplant.

"I've been able to kind of hit the reset button on my illness and really live life the way I've kind of wanted to growing up," says Hunter.

Hunter recently graduated from college with a journalism degree.
He began job hunting and also keeping up on the pandemic and potential risks.

When he developed a cough, stuffy nose, low-grade fever and headache, he went to the emergency room.

"I was concerned enough and when I went there they had me tested. I tested positive and they did a chest x-ray and found a bad case of pneumonia," he recalls.

Hunter was admitted to Cleveland Clinic Akron General, but his condition got worse.

Ultimately, doctors had to put him on a ventilator, making his transplanted lungs even more susceptible to problems.
"You have lungs that are there that are very vulnerable and very very sensitive to any sort of change or any sort of insult," says Dr. Marie Budev, a transplant specialist at Cleveland Clinic.

"I haven't really said this out loud very much but like I could have passed away without saying goodbye to family, without them being there with me, thankfully that didn't happen it's something I've really tried to wrap my head around," Nick says.

He spent a week on the ventilator.

Fortunately, his lungs responded, and he was able to come off the ventilator and recover.

Hunter now encourages others to take the virus seriously- take precautions to protect yourself and people around you.
Copyright © 2020 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.