Living without lungs for six days saves woman's life

Canadian mother’s life saved by removal of lungs

A recent bout of influenza just before her hospital admission had left her gasping for air, with coughing fits so harsh that she fractured her ribs. The most common diseases that can be treated with a lung transplant are chronic bronchitis, emphysema, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and pulmonary arterial hypertension, and lastly, cystic fibrosis, which was the condition that led Melissa Benoit to undergo the risky procedure that allowed her to enjoy her daughter's toddler years.

The 32-year-old was put on a temporary life support system and her health condition worsened as the bacteria in her lungs turned resistant to most drugs.

Because she was too sick to undergo a double transplant, doctors suggested to completely remove the source of the infection, meaning her lungs, and keep her alive with artificial breathing machines.

Surgeons removed her lungs after they became infected.

Melissa did not know the procedure was being done, but said at the press conference that her husband made the right decision. It's something that is taken for granted so easily during the day.

"It was a hard discussion because when we're talking about something that had never, to our knowledge, been done before, there were a lot of unknowns", Dr Niall Ferguson of the University Health Network, the health authority responsible for the Toronto General Hospital, stated in a news conference on Wednesday.

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One woman in Ontario survived not only receiving a lung transplant, but also, not having lungs at ALL for a number of days. Her other organs began to improve and she did not need blood pressure medication.

Ferguson, who had been overseeing Benoit's care in the ICU, said her blood pressure had plunged and her oxygen levels were critically low, so he and a team of thoracic surgeons discussed the possibility of buying her some time by removing her lungs to stop the rampant infection that was infiltrating her body.

A pair of donor lungs became available six days later, and since then Benoit has been recovering and is now learning to walk without a cane. "Things were so bad for so long, we needed something to go right". "That gave us the courage to say, if we're ever going to save this woman, we're going to do it now".

"What helped us is the fact that we knew it was a matter of hours before she would die", Dr. Shaf Keshavjee, one of Benoit's surgeons, told The Guardian. I wouldn't be reading stories to my daughter. A small portable artificial lung was connected to her heart to function as the missing lungs.

They waited for almost a week - either for lungs to become available or for complications to arise. Most of Olivia's memories were of her mother getting weaker and weaker, or "sleeping", as the child calls her mom's weeks in a coma.

"I get to be home and it's the best feeling ever".

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