SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — KELOLAND News has been following the story of Nathan Foote for months now. He’s the 42-year-old Sioux Falls man whose lungs were so badly damaged by COVID-19 that he needed a double-lung transplant to survive.
Last month, we reported that Nathan successfully underwent the procedure in Minnesota.
We follow along as Nathan leaves the hospital after 185 days, and hear from his surgeon about the outlook for lung transplant patients.
After weeks of recovery and practicing walking, Nathan Foote has been getting stronger by the day. His wife, Angie, is packing up as Nathan prepares to leave the hospital with his new set of lungs.
But Nathan won’t be going far. For the next three months the couple will be staying in a apartment close by so he can be monitored and receive treatment.
Angela Kennecke: How has the recovery been for you?
Nathan Foote: Tough — it’s the toughest thing I’ve ever gone through actually; mentally, physically. I’m still going through it. It’s a struggle man. I can’t even begin to explain how hard it is.
After two false alarms, a donor’s lungs finally came through on April 10th and six hours of surgery ensued.
“Even though his donor was the same size as him on the outside, on the inside, Mr. Foote’s chest had gotten smaller because of the lung scarring and shrinking. And so there wasn’t as much space as there normally would have been,” Lung Transplant Surgeon Dr. Stephen Huddleston said. Dr. Huddleston is with M Health Fairview and University of Minnesota Medical School.
Nathan has been thinking a lot about his donor.
Nathan: Very, very grateful. I mean. It’s sad that they had to pass away for it. But it gave me new life. I’m very emotional when it comes to that right now.
Kennecke: In a way this person lives on.
Angie: Yes they do. They brought new life to Nathan that wouldn’t have been there without those lungs.
Nathan: Or I’d be dead too.
Only half of lung transplant recipients are still alive seven years after the procedure. Medications used to suppress immune system, to keep it from attacking the new lungs, make patients susceptible to other infections.
“He’s a very young man, so that’s not great news. Now he was going to die without this and never get off oxygen, so it does give him some hope,” Dr. Huddleston said.
However much time Nathan has left, his new lungs have given him a new lease on life.
“I’m living on borrowed time pretty much now. I feel like I need to do something with it. I want to make the donor proud, you know?” Nathan said.
Nathan is still one of the lucky ones. Dr. Huddleston says most COVID-19 patients in need of lung transplants are simply too sick to survive such a procedure.
A GoFundMe account has been set up for the Foote’s expenses. They have plenty of them right now, living in Minneapolis, while their five children remain here at home in Sioux Falls.