Kidney transplant for COVID-19 patient a world-first

After more than five months in the hospital, Gu Yunchuan was discharged on May 22. He was the first severe COVID-19 patient to successfully receive a kidney transplant.

Gu, from Karamay, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, suffered from chronic nephritis for more than 10 years. His condition worsened into uremia in 2016 and he had been undergoing dialysis three times a week.

He came to Renmin Hospital of Wuhan University in Wuhan, Hubei province, on Dec 25 for a kidney transplant.

His mother, wife and son accompanied him to Wuhan and they rented a house near the hospital. They were waiting for a kidney donor while Gu was still getting dialysis treatment.

On Jan 25, the 39-year-old began to have a fever and was diagnosed of contracting COVID-19 four days later with severe infections in his lungs.

With a high fever and difficulty breathing, he was admitted to the hospital's department of infectious disease. He suffered multiple organ failures and became a severe COVID-19 patient.

Gong Zuojiong, a doctor at the hospital, said apart from the increased frequency of dialysis treatment, he was also put on a ventilator and underwent anti-viral and anti-infection treatment.

The frequent blood purification treatment for uremia effectively helped to remove the inflammatory storm and prevented his condition from worsening, Gong said.

In early March, Gu tested negative twice for COVID-19 and was discharged from the hospital. He was sent to another hospital for quarantine and medical observation for 14 days. After the quarantine ended, he returned to Renmin Hospital of Wuhan University for dialysis.

Zhou Jiangqiao, director of the department of organ transplant at the hospital, began to monitor his condition and organized a multidisciplinary medical expert team to discuss the possibility of a kidney transplant. The team decided that he had met the standards to undergo the surgery in late April.

On May 2, suitable organs were provided by a donor who passed away in Hubei. A day later, Zhou and other doctors performed the surgery successfully.

The team has closely monitored his condition after the surgery and he also weathered multiple risks including transplant organ rejection and infection. The new kidneys began to function well, he said.

Gu said he will stay in Wuhan for another two months for re-examination.

"I want to thank many people — the doctors and nurses at the hospital who saved my life and who I do not even know what they look like as they always wear protective equipment," he said.

He also wanted to thank the anonymous donor who gave him a second life and the government for covering the expenses for COVID-19 treatment, he said.