Meet Kentucky’s 1st COVID-19 double lung transplant patient

Published 3:31 pm Sunday, June 6, 2021

Dave Hoover, 43, checked into the emergency room at Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center in January after his face started turning blue when he would take a few steps around his house.

He didn’t know then that he’d remain hospitalized for more than three months as his lungs steadily got worse, that he’d be ventilated and given a throat catheter, or that he’d be the first COVID-19 patient in Kentucky to receive a double lung transplant.

“I don’t think I knew exactly how critical I was until after the transplant,” Hoover said. “After I started feeling better, my wife started sharing some things with me and I was speechless. I’m just very grateful.”

Hoover, of Stanford, is a hobby farmer and a factory worker. He’s a husband and the father of two kids and a former bodybuilder. He’s the kind of healthy, younger person who isn’t statistically likely to develop severe complications from COVID-19.

When he caught the coronavirus in January, he thought it was allergies or a minor illness. Even after he checked into the hospital, he had seemed mostly fine — he and his wife Emily were talking about doing pulmonary rehabilitation to try and support him at home — but by February 25th, he was transferred to the University of Kentucky Medical Center and they were talking about putting him on a ventilator.

“It just spiraled to where he was requiring a lot more support than he was getting at that time,” said Emily, who is a nurse.

Over the next three months at UK, Hoover’s lungs continued to get worse. He developed a complication from being on the respirator that allowed air to seep into his chest, so they had to catheterize his throat in order to inject oxygen directly into his veins.

He was put on the lung transplant list, where he waited for a month. In the meantime, he had to try to sit up and walk while he was on a type of heart-lung machine called an ECMO.