Health Care

Woman Miraculously Survives Without Lungs For Nearly A Week

University Health Network

Since then her strength has steadily improved.

"I still don't believe what happened".

A Canadian woman's bout with influenza has turned her into a medical pioneer.

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

Benoit's husband, Chris, gave doctors the go-ahead, thinking of their three-year-old daughter. She then entered septic shock and her organs began to shut down.

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.

In April, Melissa Benoit arrived at a Toronto hospital with a severe lung infection. "We had to make a decision because Melissa was going to die that night". "There was nothing we could do to keep her alive".

"Having this transplant saved my life", Mrs Benoit said.

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Dr Marcelo Cypel, the thoracic surgeon on call, kept weighing the risk of her death versus the risk of removing both of her lungs. 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.

"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. At that point, they didn't even know when donor lungs might become available.

So they went to the family and explained the risky procedure.

Doctors had been contemplating the removal of lungs in a drastic approach to save patients like Benoit, but had never attempted it before.

The infection eventually spread to her entire body, since the bacteria in her lungs was resistant to medication. "This new procedure was the first piece of good news in a long time".

Dr Keshavjee said: "In fact, she technically was on an artificial lung, an artificial heart and an artificial kidney for six days". But she still has a way to go in her medical journey. "That told us that the concept is right". Amanda Spriel, a perfusionist, said the team could no longer perform a lung transplant.

Melissa remains on kidney dialysis, but is now able to play with her young daughter "for whole days" without getting exhausted and his not needed a walker or cane for a month.

"For the first time in my life, I can actually say that I feel like I'm living, despite the little consequences of the surgery".