LAKE ZURICH, Ill. (CBS) — COVID-19 can cause permanent lung damage. In the United States, seven people, including a Lake Zurich man, have received rare double lung transplants.

Brian Kuhns, 62, became sick in March from the novel coronavirus. He spoke exclusively with CBS News’ Dr. Jon LaPook.

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“The first time I woke up in the hospital I couldn’t breathe,” he said.

His lungs were severely damaged, so doctors put him on a life support treatment that uses a machine outside the body to add oxygen to his blood. He was on it for 100 days, alone in the hospital. Doctors at Northwestern Medicine told him to get a transplant or die.

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“In patients who have this COVID-19 lung injury and lung failure, they develop these punched out holes throughout the lungs,” said Dr. Ankit Bharat, who performed the surgery. “He had big time, big cavities. The lung was stuck to the heart, to the diaphragm, to the chest wall.”

The day after his surgery doctors took Brian off the ventilator to test his new lungs.

Kuhns said the first thing he did was take a breath.

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Kuhns has weeks of rehabilitation ahead before he can finally go home.   

CBS 2 Chicago Staff