Kentucky’s first COVID-19 double lung transplant grateful for ‘second chance at life’

Posted at 6:35 PM, Jun 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-02 19:11:13-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — A Kentucky man’s long battle with COVID-19 is almost over after a successful double lung transplant.

Dave Hoover, 43, initially thought he was coming down with a cold in late January. Hoover’s wife, Emily, rushed him to the hospital when she noticed his face turning blue after taking a few steps around the house. Hoover checked into Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center on January 26 with COVID-19 and double pulmonary pneumonia.

From there, his health quickly deteriorated.

“When [COVID-19] hit me, it just kind of took me by storm,” Hoover said.

Hoover was transferred to the University of Kentucky Medical Center on February 25, where he was put on a ventilator on arrival. While at the hospital, his lungs were getting worse. Hoover developed a complication from the ventilator, and doctors catharized his throat to inject oxygen directly into his veins.

Hoover ultimately ended up on ECMO, a machine that takes blood from the veins, adds oxygen to them externally, and returns it to the body.

“Really the hardest conversation that I feel like we had while I was up here was about just the realization that this was our only chance at survival was a bilateral lung transplant,” said Emily Hoover.

Dave Hoover was put on the lung transplant list. UK’s Medical Director of the Lung Transplant Program Dr. Maher Baz explained about 15 percent of patients on the transplant list will not survive the wait.

“If you take a step back and look nationally at how many people are waiting for organ transplants including heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys, they would probably fill a football stadium,” Dr. Baz said.

“We had all the faith that God would carry us through this just like He had the few months before,” Hoover said.

While he waited, Hoover worked on walking while still connected to the ECMO machine.

“It actually felt like I was drowning just trying to walk,” Hoover said.

But a few weeks later, the Hoover family received the call they were waiting for. On April 4, Dave Hoover became the first person in Kentucky to receive a double lung transplant after contracting COVID-19.

“This is a God-given miracle that He gave me this second chance at life, and I’m just very blessed to still be here,” Hoover said.

More than three months later, Hoover is recovering at home alongside his wife, four-year-old son, and 19-year-old daughter.

“The big part of 2021 we spent in the four walls of the hospital, so we’re more than thrilled to be out now and be able to enjoy our lives with this second chance at life he’s been given,” said Emily Hoover.

Dave Hoover said he has not been cleared to get the COVID-19 vaccine yet, but while they wait, the entire family is encouraging everyone in their path to get their shot.