Timothy Sauvé was knocked unconscious after being struck by a dizzy spell. That wasn’t the first symptom of a coronavirus infection for the 61-year-old. During his two-month stay in the intensive care units of two Toronto-area hospitals, the infection wreaked havoc on his lungs. Since contracting COVID-19, doctors say he is the first person in Canada to undergo a double lung transplant. “Lungs should be very light, like balloons, so you can quickly force air in,” says the surgical director of his lungs.
Before the transplant, he says, “things were pretty bleak.” “They told me my [lungs] weren’t getting any better and that I should make plans to say goodbye to my loved ones,” he says of his pre-transplant treatment. “It was really quite similar to patients with chronic lung disease,” says the surgeon.
Sauvé was then transferred to Toronto General Hospital, which is part of the University Health Network and home to Canada’s largest organ donation program. Three more COVID-19 patients are being considered for transplantation by UHN’s transplant program. Despite the fact that Sauvé is now doing well, he acknowledged that the previous few months had been a nightmare for his family. At about the same time, his entire household tested positive for COVID-19, including his common-law wife Julie Garcia, her 24-year-old son, and her 80-year-old father, Juanito Teng.
“People don’t know what COVID does to people… and they sometimes let their guard down,” he said. “I figured I’d get over it once I got the disease,” he said. The family is unaware of how members became infected or who contracted the virus first.