1st BHMC patient to undergo liver transplant since start of pandemic returns home

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - The first patient to undergo a liver transplant at Broward Health Medical Center since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic is home from the hospital.

7News cameras captured 64-year-old Ernesto Escobar leaving the hospital on Wednesday.

He had nothing but praise for his caregivers.

“Thanks to my team, transplant team and my angels, and they give me new life,” he said.

A new life after many tries looking for that perfect match.

“I had five donors in front of me, but I’m kind of a skinny guy and really tall American. It won’t fit my belly,” he said.

Escobar’s case is not unique, especially since the start of the pandemic.

Studies have shown that liver donations and implantations have been down during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that made getting the call all the more miraculous.

“Elaine called me around 8 o’clock Sunday morning, and I was jogging around the neighborhood, and she told me, ‘We have good news. We got this nice new liver for you,’ and I said, ‘OK,'” Escobar said, “and I run, run, run, run to go home to take a shower. I grab my bag and my clothes, and I told my wife, ‘Grab the keys. Let’s go.'”

Cellphone video showed Escobar in his hospital bed five days after his surgery.

When asked how he was doing, Escobar replied, “Good.”

“We’re here, as you know, this is day five after you got your liver transplant on Friday,” said Dr. Emmanouil Palaios, the surgeon who performed the transplant. “You’ve done very, very well. We’re all very happy.”

The surgery was a success at a time when many fear to seek care because of COVID concerns.

“We always prioritize the safety of our patients. Broward Health has policies, procedures and protocols in place implemented rapidly after the pandemic hit Florida,” said Dr. Palaios. “We were able to do a complex operation, including immuno-suppression on a patient that he went home five days after the operation with no problem.”

“We’re now a transplant family,” said Escobar’s nurse. “We’re here for you. Whatever you need, you can always call us, we’re always here.”

“I’m so glad I’m here,” replied Escobar.

He said he’s glad and thankful for the doctors who’ve now given him a new lease on life.

Escobar has a message for those still hesitant to seek care.

“Don’t suffer. Make sure, get help, and the help is here, no doubt,” he said.

Palaios said hospitals and doctors are ready and waiting for patients to come back, and they shouldn’t fear seeking medical care.

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