Woman survives six days without lungs

Posted January 28, 2017

In what has been hailed as a medical first, 32-year-old Melissa Benoit had both of her lungs taken out, and lived without them for nearly a week until she could get a transplant. An artificial lung was connected to Benoit's heart, The Guardian reported.

In a nine-hour procedure, a team of 13 surgical staff removed her lungs one at a time, CNN reported.

The list of unknowns was long, from the risk of bleeding into the empty chest cavity to whether her blood pressure and oxygen levels could be sustained once her lungs were removed.

A Burlington mother's life has been saved with a radical procedure doctors believe had never been done before.

She was dying - and so were her chances of receiving a lung transplant that could save her life: Too sick, she was dropped from the transplant list.

Benoit said she wasn't in pain and couldn't see any of her scars. "Things were so bad for so long, we needed something to go right".

"What helped us is the fact that we knew it was a matter of hours before she would die", said Dr Shaf Keshavjee, one of three surgeons who operated on her. Melissa gave us the courage to go-ahead'.

Thoracic surgeons at Toronto General Hospital (TGH), part of the University Health Network (UNH), performed the procedure on 33-year-old Melissa Benoit. The doctors were left with the only option of removing her lungs and keeping her on a ventilator. "Her new lungs functioned beautifully and inflated easily".

"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 said in a news conference, according to the report. She then entered septic shock and her organs began to shut down.

A pair of lungs finally became available six days later and the pioneering transplant she underwent was a success.

Quietly, though, her team of doctors had been mulling a procedure that could extend her life but had never been tried. "She got into a spiral from which her lungs were not going to recover".

Life support wasn't working.

The Canadian nurse with cystic fibrosis was kept alive for six days with the help of a similar ECMO achine.

They knew she would "want to fight for my daughter Olivia, I would want to be back with my family again", she added.

Keshavjee, the surgeon, told The Washington Post this week that doctors saw positive signs nearly immediately, though that was the most nerve-racking time for him. She was forced to use a walker and then a cane, but now she can walk without assistance. "I get to be home and it is the best feeling in the world". She has not needed a walker or cane for the past month and can play with her daughter Olivia for whole days without getting exhausted.