Health Care

Woman Survives 6 Days Without Lungs

Woman Survives 6 Days Without Lungs

The doctors were forced to remove her lungs, and she lived without them for six days, waiting for a transplant!

In April, Melissa Benoit arrived at a Toronto hospital with a severe lung infection. "I'll be the first in the world to see how long we live", she said.

The bacteria in her lungs developed resistance to most antibiotics and spread throughout her body, her blood pressure dropped and she slid into septic shock.

Dr. Shaf Keshavjee, director of the lung transplant program, said the team weighed the pros and cons and presented the idea of the last-ditch procedure to her family - and they immediately agreed.

"We had to make a decision because Melissa was going to die that night".

Benoit's husband, Chris, gave doctors the go-ahead, thinking of their three-year-old daughter.

A team of 13 operating staff, including three thoracic surgeons, took part in the efforts to remove Mrs Benoit's organs in a procedure which took nine hours.

Although it had never been carried out before, doctors chose to remove her lungs entirely. Melissa Benoit is now able to run and to play with her 2-year-old daughter without wheezing.

'These are things that I want so badly in life and I wouldn't have made it'.

But within hours, Benoit's condition improved dramatically.

"All I heard was that there was this 1% chance of this surgery working and I didn't hear anything after that- it was like let's do this", said Benoit's mother, Sue Dupuis.

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It wasn't until Benoit was eventually weaned off the ventilator about a month later that she realized what it meant to have new lungs, which are unaffected by the mutated gene that causes CF.

"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", said Dr. Niall Ferguson, head of critical care at the University Health Network, which includes Toronto General.

"She got into a spiral from which her lungs were not going to recover", said Ferguson, according to The Guardian.

In five to six days, donor lungs matched her blood type and size, so they proceeded with the transplant, which turned out to be successful.

The surgeon described each lung as being so heavy and rock-like, "we could barely pry it out of her chest".

"We didn't know if we'd get (them) in one day or one month".

The transplant was a success - and a short time later, Benoit opened her eyes.

She was on maximum doses of three medications to maintain her blood pressure, the most advanced respiratory support, and on last-line powerful antibiotics.

The genetic disease damaged her kidney, but she is hoping to undergo a kidney transplant soon, it is likely the kidney will be donated by her mother.

"You really come from the brink of death to back living at home", she shared, saying she is happy and grateful to be finally home.


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