COVID & Cancer: Gillespie’s Transplant Triumph

COVID & Cancer: Gillespie's Transplant Triumph
COVID & Cancer: Gillespie's Transplant Triumph. Credit | rawpixel

United States: After visiting his uncle at a nursing home with his father in early March 2020, Arthur “Art” Gillespie, a resident of Chicago, became ill with COVID-19.

Unforeseen Discovery

Gillespie, 56, recounted in a news release, “I was hospitalized for 12 days with a high fever and cough, and during that time, they were taking scans of my lungs, which showed stage 1 lung cancer on my right lung.” “We were able to catch the cancer early because, in a sense, I had no symptoms of lung cancer,” the patient said.

A Tragic Toll

In the end, Gillespie suffered from COVID and lost his father, uncle, and cousin. He also nearly died. Gillespie had a single, slim chance of survival when COVID and cancer each damaged one of his lungs.

His life was saved in January by medical professionals at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago through a double lung transplant, which they said was the first of its kind to involve two lungs affected by two distinct illnesses.

Dr. Ankit Bharat, chief of thoracic surgery at Northwestern Medicine, stated in a news release that “even though Arthur looked physically strong when he first came to see us in September 2023, he could barely speak a single sentence without getting short of breath or take a few steps before having to sit down.”

A Race Against Time

“His only chance of survival was a double lung transplant, as the pressure inside his lungs had also increased to the point that it was causing heart failure,” Bharat, the surgeon who operated on Gillespie, continued.

Gillespie has almost thirty years of experience in the legal field; most recently, he was a captain in the University of Chicago Police Department.

Following his hospital discharge in 2020, Gillespie began chemotherapy for his COVID-19 infection. Two-thirds of his right lung were removed during surgery in November 2020.

He never got around to recovering and going back to work.

Gillespie worked out at his home gym and received physical therapy for the following three years, but his body continued to weaken. He eventually found himself in need of more oxygen each day to survive.

“Despite my best attempts, I felt like I was regressing. Lung cancer in my surviving right lung and COVID-19 in my left lung caused harm, Gillespie said. There was nothing more his doctors at other health systems could do to help him.

A Glimmer of Hope

In September 2023, Gillespie sought a second opinion at the Canning Thoracic Institute at Northwestern University. He was waiting to receive a double lung transplant by November.

Gillespie’s transplant in January has made him stronger every day, according to the doctors, but he has no idea when or if he will be able to resume his job as a police captain.

In order to encourage other police to put their own health first, Gillespie believes that his tale will resonate with them. There is a National Police Week the week of May 12.

Recovery and Reflection

“Compared to my lung cancer surgery recovery, my double lung transplant recovery has been easier,” Gillespie remarked. “I want others to learn from my story, especially law enforcement personnel.”

“The daily grind of a public service position can easily divert one’s attention,” Gillespie went on. “You’re accustomed to putting the needs of others above your own health, but when we sense something isn’t right, we need to be just as proactive and get a second opinion.”

Defying Expectations

Despite the fact that Gillespie’s lung damage from COVID and cancer would normally be deemed “non-salvageable for lung transplantation,” Bharat said Gillespie has shown himself to be “a fighter.”

Arthur “had the courage and determination to keep searching for answers despite being told ‘no’ by other doctors,” according to Bharat. “Since he served the community for so long as a police captain, I feel honored that we could assist him.”