Woman awaiting transplant lives for six days without her lungs

Jan 29, 2017, 00:25
Woman awaiting transplant lives for six days without her lungs

A woman diagnosed with cystic fibrosis had her lungs removed for six days while waiting for lung transplant.

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Benoit was admitted to the Toronto General Hospital and was given only a few hours to live.

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".

"It proved the concept is successful, but how long could you support her in this condition?" he said, adding that the biggest uncertainly was how long it would take for replacement lungs to become available.

'That gave us the courage to say, if we're ever going to save this woman, we're going to do it now'.

"In Melissa's case, our hand was being forced a little bit because she was actively dying, and if we hadn't done something, she would have died that day for sure".

The whole procedure took around nine hours, and was carried out by 13 operating staff. "And literally within minutes - it was probably around 20 minutes after having taken those infected lungs out - her blood pressure normalised, and they could remove all the blood pressure-supporting drugs and just leave her on the pumps that were providing the circulation", Keshavjee said.

Doctors at the hospital had proposed removing both her lungs - the source of her infection - to prevent her condition from worsening.

"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 here to see my daughter grow up, I wouldn't be here to grow old with my husband".

Chris Benoit said in that news release that "things were so bad for so long, we needed something to go right, and this new procedure was the first piece of good news in a long time".

As her blood pressure plummeted to dangerously low levels and, one by one, her organs began to shut down. "It took me a while to realize what happened".

As part of her recovery, Melissa has had to learn how to lift her head, raise her torso and stand again after nearly six months in bed following the operation.

A Novalung device - a small portable artificial lung - was connected by arteries and veins to her heart to function as the missing lungs. Her lungs were inflamed and began to fill with blood, pus and mucous, decreasing the amount of air entering her lungs. As they waited for replacement lungs to become available, doctors wondered how long she could be supported like this. With the Canadian nurse being in a state where she could not make decisions on her own, the family reconvened and made the decision for her.

Benoit lost about two months of her life to being sick and undergoing surgery. "She got into a spiral from which her lungs were not going to recover", said Ferguson.

Melissa Benoit survived for six days without her lungs.

She is also preparing for another transplant in the near future as her kidneys were damaged throughout the process.

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