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Rancher getting double-lung transplant after COVID wants to be cautionary tale

Jake Immink of Nebraska spent months on a ventilator.

A 31-year-old Nebraska cattle rancher is recovering after doctors replaced his coronavirus-damaged lungs. The Lincoln Journal-Star reports that Jake Immink, of Fairbury, got sick around Halloween and wound up hospitalized on a ventilator for months. His lungs were so damaged that his only chance for a fairly normal life was a double-lung transplant.

He underwent the surgery March 20 after losing weight and building up strength. He put his new lungs to the test this week, walking a mile and a half.

“I fully expect him to be herding cattle this summer,” said Dr. Heather Strah, a transplant pulmonologist with Nebraska Medicine in Omaha.

Doing transplants for patients whose lungs are damaged by an acute illness is rare, although it has become more common because of COVID-19. Strah said she’s aware of about 40 that have been done since the start of the pandemic, but Immink’s was the first in Nebraska.

Immink said he wants to be a cautionary tale to people who may not think COVID-19 is a big deal, and he encouraged everyone to get vaccinated as soon as they can.

“I just hope everyone takes it serious and we can get back to a normal life,” he said.

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