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Florida Hospital Performed Life Saving Double Lung Transplant On Nurse Who Contracted COVID-19

GAINESVILLE (CBSMiami) - Utah Intensive care nurse Jill Hansen Holker spent months taking care of the sickest COVID-19 patients, but in November it was the 43-year-old who became infected with the virus.

The mother of three and marathon runner, with no underlying conditions, was fighting for her life. Doctors said her lungs were essentially not working anymore.

"I couldn't believe that it got to this point. Like, that's only for people who are older and sicker. I was admitted to my ICU and even my coworkers were just dumbfounded that I was so, so sick," she said.

Dr. Tiago Machuca, a surgeon at UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainseville said, "We are seeing more and more patients in this situation. Those lungs are irreversibly damaged and the only option of leaving the hospital alive will be through a double lung transplant."

According to Dr. Machuca, an international registry shows more than 30 COVID survivors have gone through the procedure.

Holker was transferred to UF Health Shands Hospital and put on the transplant list. She received her new lungs about a month ago.

"Her first question, 'When am I going to run my next marathon?' So, that just showed how strong she's mentally, how strong she is physically," says Dr. Machuca.

Holker recently walked out of the hospital to cheers from the staff. She'll now have three months of rehab in Florida before returning to Utah and her children.

"They're ready for me to come home. And thanks to these guys here, I get to actually get to go home. They gave me a second life, so super grateful," she said.

UF Health's team has performed more than 10 double lung transplants on COVID-19 patients to date.

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