SCRANTON, Pa. — At the height of the pandemic in the fall of 2020, Dr. Sean Devine of Scranton was treating COVID-19 patients in the ICU.
The pulmonologist with Geisinger Health System found himself coming down with COVID. His condition took a turn for the worse.
"I decided to call my wife and say 'I need to go to the hospital.' I did not think I was going survive, knowing what COVID-19 was doing to people," said Dr. Devine, division chief of pulmonary medicine at Geisinger.
Dr. Devine was in a coma and placed on a ventilator. One month later, he was flown from Pennsylvania to the University of Florida—one of two places in the country able to do lung transplants for COVID patients.
"When I got there, I was not able to communicate, I was not able to move. After intensive rehab while on ECMO, I was able to be strong enough to qualify for a lung transplant," said Dr. Devine.
On February 9, 2021, Dr. Devine was given the gift of life with two new lungs. The surgery took ten hours.
April is national donate life month. According to Rick Hasz, the president and CEO of the Gift of Life Donor Program, the list of people in need of an organ transplant grows every day.
"Transplantation is really the only modality for patients who have end-stage organ failure. Without it, patients will die," said Hasz.
Across the nation, nearly 100,000 people are awaiting an organ transplant. Hasz says 5,000 of those people are from our region.
"The great limiting step right now in transplantation is the availability of organs, and that really depends on a family at their worst possible time saying yes to donation," said Hasz.
Even though Dr. Devine doesn't know who his donor was, he returned to work, forever grateful, his donor's family said yes.
"It makes you realize life is tenacious, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have a second chance at life," said Dr. Devine.
To learn more about the work of the Gift of Life Donor Program or to sign up to become a donor, click here.
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