Retired Northwestern Medicine nurse first-ever lung, liver transplant from hospital group


CHICAGO (WLS) — He spent 25 years caring for hospital patients, as a nurse.

Now, he’s the one receiving end, becoming the first person to receive a liver and lung transplant at Northwestern Medicine.

“Don’t take life for granted,” lung-liver transplant recipient Patricio Collera said.

Wise words from Collera, who now has a new outlook on life thanks to Northwestern Medicine.

“I’m putting my life on the line for a procedure very rare and complicated,” he said.

Collera, a retired Northwestern Medicine nurse, was diagnosed with a lung and liver disease in 2017.

Breathing became such a challenge that he relied on supportive oxygen 24-7, forcing the nurse to leave the profession he loved.

“My life before the surgery for months and over a year was a miserable one,” Collera said. “I was dragging oxygen tubing where I wanted to.”

“One of the critical issues during multi organ transplants such as lung and liver is the time these organs stay outside the human body,” Dr. Ankit Bharat, chief of thoracic surgery at Northwestern Medicine.

Collera needed a lung and liver transplant, a procedure so rare and complex that only 10 operations have been performed in the United States this year.

“So we had to work twice as fast with twice the efficiency to make sure the procedure was successful,” Dr. Bharat said.

Just 10 days after being listed for the transplant, Collera received the call that would ultimately save his life.

“Northwestern took me and assured me that they were going to do a lung and a liver transplant at the same time. I was overjoyed,” Collera said.

The operation was not only successful, but historic for Northwestern.

Collera became Northwestern Medicine’s first-ever patient to receive a lung-liver transplant.

“They all worked in perfect harmony. As we like to call it, in a perfectly coordinated ballroom dance to make sure this was a success,” Dr. Bharat said.

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