Art Gillespie in street clothes standing with his physician and nurse in a hospital corridor.
Art Gillespie in street clothes standing with his physician and nurse in a hospital corridor.

Double Duty: A First-of-Its-Kind Double-Lung Transplant Saves Chicago Police Captain

Arthur “Art” Gillespie Receives First Known Double-Lung Transplant for Both COVID-19 and Lung Cancer in the U.S.

After one lung was damaged from cancer and the other by complications from COVID-19, 56-year-old Arthur "Art" Gillespie, needed to find care fast. Turned away by other health systems, he consulted Northwestern Medicine in September 2023. By early January, the former Chicago police captain received new lungs at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

To date, Northwestern Medicine has performed more than 45 lung transplants for COVID-19, and more than 40 for lung cancer, with Art being the first to receive a double-lung transplant for both.  

Art Gillespie at work wearing his police captain uniform.
Arthur "Art" Gillespie

A Long Fight Determined to be Won

In March 2020, Art began fighting a severe case of COVID-19. He was hospitalized for 12 days with a high fever and cough. During his stay, scans of both lungs revealed an unexpected complication — he had stage 1 lung cancer in his right lung. This discovery marked the beginning of a long journey to recovery.

Art started chemotherapy treatments and underwent surgery at another health system where two-thirds of his right lung were removed.

Art hoped to get better and return to work after surgery. He continued physical therapy treatments and worked out at his home gym, but despite his efforts, his body became weaker, and he needed daily supplemental oxygen. That's when he turned to Northwestern Medicine for a second opinion.

"A second opinion saved my life," he says. "The lung transplant team listened to my concerns, didn't dismiss them and gave me a sense of direction."

"When Arthur first came to see us in September 2023, even though he looked physically strong, he could barely speak a single sentence without getting short of breath or take a few steps before having to sit down." says Ankit Bharat, MD, chief of Thoracic Surgery and director of Northwestern Medicine Canning Thoracic Institute, who performed Art's transplant. "The pressure inside the lungs had also increased to a point that it was causing heart failure."

Art Gillespie and pulmonologist Rade Tomic, MD looking at x-rays on a monitor in an office.
Art reviewing his X-rays with Pulmonologist Rade Tomic, MD.

A Procedure Pioneered During the Pandemic

At Canning Thoracic Institute , surgeons pioneered lung transplantation for people with COVID-19 and now use those learnings to provide care for eligible patients with advanced lung cancer, thanks to a first-of-its-kind clinical program called the Double Lung Replacement and Multidisciplinary Care (DREAM) Program.

Closeup of surgeons performing a lung transplant on Art.
Art undergoing his double-lung transplant.

"Four years after the start of the pandemic, COVID-19 still has an impact on patients, but in a different way," says Rade Tomic, MD, pulmonologist and medical director of the Northwestern Medicine Lung Transplant Program. "While lung transplants for acute damage from COVID-19 is quite rare these days, we're now starting to see patients who may have had moderate to severe cases of COVID-19 coming in with signs of lung fibrosis (scarring). The scarring of the lungs gets more heightened in patients who recovered from COVID-19 but get another respiratory infection like COVID-19, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) or influenza because it compounds the original damage that COVID-19 caused."

Canning Thoracic Institute is the only clinical site in the United States offering lung transplants to treat lung cancer.

Patients interested in being evaluated for a lung transplant can contact the referral line at 844.639.5864 (TTY: 711). 

Learn more about lung transplants.