Singing — and Surgery — Saved Amanda’s Life

20th COVID-19 Double-Lung Transplant Recipient Finds Her Voice

Singing saved Amanda Longe-Asque's life. Northwestern Medicine saved it again with a leading-edge surgery: a double-lung transplant, after COVID-19 destroyed her lungs. Amanda is now the 20th person on the road to recovery after this first-of-its-kind, lifesaving procedure.

Amanda has been on the road to recovery before. She used the power of song to recover from a cycle of addiction, incarceration and homelessness through music therapy at the Chicago nonprofit Harmony, Hope & Healing.

Amanda first joined Harmony, Hope & Healing as a choir member. She then became a sobriety counselor. In 2019, she graduated from DePaul University, earning her bachelor's degree in counseling and spirituality. She then began to work on a master's degree. In July 2020, Amanda became the co-executive director of Harmony, Hope & Healing with Sophie Wingland.

I think I can help your wife.
— Ankit Bharat, MD

"I Think I Can Help Your Wife"

Five months later in December 2020, Amanda was diagnosed with COVID-19. Her condition quickly worsened to the point that her lungs were severely damaged and she was on a ventilator. Her family was told by another medical center that nothing more could be done and that they would have to say goodbye. However, Amanda's family did not want to give up, so they started asking around. One of Amanda's colleagues at Harmony, Hope & Healing had heard about Northwestern Medicine Thoracic Surgeon Ankit Bharat, MD, who pioneered the COVID-19 double-lung transplant, and knew there was still hope for Amanda.

"I was getting more and more worried — I'm her husband and I can't do anything," says Amanda's husband Arnold Asque. "Then, Dr. Bharat called and said, 'I think I can help your wife.'"

Amanda was transferred to Northwestern Memorial Hospital. In May 2020, she became the 20th person at the hospital to receive a double-lung transplant from Dr. Bharat and his team after COVID-19 destroyed her lungs.

"We certainly thought that Amanda's surgery was going to be difficult, but we never thought it was going to be impossible," says Dr. Bharat.

Starting a Long Road to Recovery

You could hear Amanda working on her recovery in the hospital's halls even before you saw the lights of the disco ball attached to her walker. She walked the halls with her occupational and physical therapists. A speaker played her favorite music, including songs from the band Earth, Wind & Fire. As always, music motivated her. It's the sound of hope for the long road to recovery ahead.

After six months of being unable to speak, Amanda, who spent years of her life belting out songs in a choir, has finally regained her ability to talk. With extensive physical therapy and her positive attitude, Amanda hopes that she will soon be able to sing again, and is focused on that goal.

The double lung transplant was not the end of Amanda's recovery; it was the beginning of a long journey to once again reclaim her life. Amanda faces this challenge — full of victories and setbacks —with the resilience she tapped into while breaking the cycle of addiction and homelessness.

"This journey and the care I received were unbelievable," says Amanda. "It's been so humbling."

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