SIOUX FALLS, S.D. —
A Sioux Falls man has received a double lung transplant after complications in October with COVID-19.
Nathan Foote, 42, went through a severe case of pneumonia after contracting COVID-19 that caused his lungs to become 80% scarred and shrink in size. Following that diagnosis, he was faced with two choices: get a double lung transplant or go into hospice until he dies.
On Jan. 17 he was transported to the University of Minnesota Medical Center in Minneapolis to undergo testing to get placed on the list.
After being placed on the transplant list in February, Foote waited through two potential matches before finally getting the procedure April 10.
"I didn't think I'd ever make it this far," he said. "I did my part even when they told me I was going to die, because I wasn't going to believe that."
The two previous matches fell through because of changes in the health status of the potential donors, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reported.
Nathan and Angie Foote, his wife, tried to downplay the third call to not get too excited, but the morning of the procedure when the ball started rolling, the reality sank in for them.
"Come Saturday morning, we were in his room and the doctors were coming up to take him to the operating room," Angie Foote said. "That was probably the defining moment for both of us."
The surgery lasted eight hours, and with each passing minute, Angie Foote felt like her heart was going to jump out of her chest.
The signs of relief she received were two brief phone calls from nurses two hours apart, updating her that everything was operating smoothly.
"Every time the phone rang, my heart jumped a little bit. Am I getting a phone call saying there were complications? Am I getting a call saying he didn't make it?" she said. "To hear everything was going well, I could actually breathe a sigh of relief."
Post-procedure, Nathan Foote is feeling as well as expected. Everything regarding the health of the newly transplanted lungs is positive, but pain and tiredness remain.
A milestone moment occurred a few days after the procedure, though. He took his first breath on his own in six months.
"We had to remind him to breathe," Angie Foote said. "It was amazing to finally see him take that first breath, and he was elated to realize he could breathe again."
But, recovery is a long road. Eating food following the procedure has been tough for him.
"It has been a struggle. You also have this feeding tube that goes down your throat and into your stomach," he said. "So they feed you with that, and when you eat, that food is getting caught and it feels like you are choking."
Angie Foote said her husband's first taste of solid food following the procedure was as if everything tasted better than before.
His biggest craving?
"Citrus," Angie Foote chuckled. "Pineapple and oranges. Out of all the things, but that is what he wanted and was excited about."
Right now, he is teaching himself to do everything over again. The hardest concept to learn: walking. "Your body has the strength to do it, so your body wants to go, but your lungs aren't strong," he said. "I can walk a few feet and will be gasping for air like I ran a marathon or something."
The next three months, the couple will stay in the Minneapolis area to be monitored daily, go to the clinic, attend physical therapy and make sure he is progressing.
The couple and family have showed nothing but love and gratitude for the support they have received from friends, family, neighbors and complete strangers, they said.
"People we didn't even know would lend financial or emotional support," Angie Foote said. "Saying we heard your story and want you to know that we are rooting for you – that has really touched us."