Canadian mother's life saved by removal of lungs

Doctors remove woman's LUNGS for 6 days to save her life

A Canadian woman reportedly hours away from death had her lungs removed for six days while she waited for a life-saving transplant.

At a press conference in Wednesday, the head of the hospital's lung transplant program said Melissa Benoit, 32, had only hours to live when her family gave the go-ahead for the procedure, the Canadian Press (CP) wire service reported. Two machines were used to keep the Canadian nurse alive - a Novalung, an advanced piece of equipment whose goal is to infuse the blood with oxygen and to remove the carbon dioxide, and another apparatus called the Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation Machine (EMCO) whose duty was to help the woman's heart pump blood to vital areas of the body.

Dr Niall Ferguson, head of critical care medicine at the University Health Network and Mount Sinai, said the influenza "tipped her over the edge into respiratory failure".

The radical procedure was undertaken on patient Melissa Benoit in April 2016 at at Toronto General Hospital, with the findings of the medical team having now been published.

"We had reached the end of the road", said Shaf Keshavjee, one of three surgeons attending Benoit.

The mother-of-one, who was born with cystic fibrosis, had a severe lung infection and was dying before the eyes of clinicians.

'These are things that I want so badly in life and I wouldn't have made it'. "We needed this chance", he said. "When you have CF, you cough all the time", she said, dabbing away tears.

So far, Benoit has not experienced signs of rejection from her body, seeing that she received a transplant of a major set of organs such as the lungs. "He had to trust in himself, knowing me, relying on past conversations, and he chose exactly what I would have told him to".

The procedure also allowed Benoit some time to regain enough strength for a lung transplant six days later. While doctors were searching for a lung donor, the oxygen needed in the woman's bloodstream was provided by an artificial lung hooked up to a breathing machine.

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. Surgery to remove the lungs took 9 hours.

Dr. Shaf Keshavjee, the chief surgeon at University Health Network, chose to take both her lungs out - a procedure they have never done before. Her lungs were as hard as a football and filled with pus, mucous and blood.

When Benoit awoke and was told she had survived the week without lungs, she thought it was "science fiction".

Since the surgery, Benoit has been improving steadily.

"The transplant procedure was not complicated because half of it was done already", Dr Cypel said. 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 is the best feeling in the world".

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