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Home With New Heart Lungs For Holidays

After enduring five open-heart surgeries, 200 days in Northwestern Memorial Hospital, the death of her mother due to COVID-19 and a 12-hour transplant surgery, Brittani Bury is home for the holidays with a new heart and lungs.

People are like snowflakes; our bodies are all different. Brittani Bury (31) was born with a snowman in her chest. Because of five congenital heart defects and two congenital lung defects, collectively referred to as total anomalous pulmonary venous return (TAPVR), her heart was shaped like a snowman when you looked at it on a chest X-ray.

Brittani underwent a flurry of surgeries and procedures as a child, but knew that someday she would need a heart and double-lung transplant. In September 2020, she was placed on the transplant waiting list. By March 2021, she was admitted to Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

"All the veins draining blood and carrying oxygen from Brittani's lungs back to her heart were blocked, so the pressure inside her lungs got very high, which caused her heart to fail. Also, because the oxygen carrying blood couldn't get back to the heart, her body was severely lacking oxygen and slowly failing," says Ankit Bharat, MD, chief of Thoracic Surgery at Northwestern Medicine.

Brittani was hospitalized for more than 200 days. In September 2021, her mom, Tammy, died from COVID-19. Brittani's mom was her best friend and caregiver. They had weathered the storm of Brittani's congenital defects together for 31 years. Unable to leave the hospital, Brittani said goodbye to her mom on FaceTime and watched her funeral virtually as she continued to wait for her organs.

On November 3, 2021, Brittani received the first heart and double-lung transplant ever performed at Northwestern Medicine. Her team spent 12 hours in the operating room working on her case. She was discharged and able to go home to her sister Briana's house in Rockford, Illinois, on December 23, just in time for the holidays.

"Brittani's mother had one wish, for Brittani to have a chance to live the life that she deserves, and I think that this team at Northwestern Medicine has helped make her mother's wish come true," says Northwestern Medicine Heart Failure and Heart Transplantation Physician Jonathan D. Rich, MD. "Brittani is now part of our family. She has this family for the rest of her life."