Doctors save Burlington mom's life by removing her lungs

The pioneering procedure was the first of its kind to be ever attempted More

Before she received the transplant, Melissa Benoit said she felt like she was breathing through a straw.

Keshavjee and the team comprising of 13 members removed Melissa's lungs in a nine-hour procedure.

The risks included bleeding into an empty chest cavity, whether her blood pressure and oxygen levels could be supported afterwards and whether she would survive the operation.

A woman diagnosed with cystic fibrosis had her lungs removed for six days while waiting for lung transplant. I wouldn't be here to see my daughter grow up, I wouldn't be here to grow old with my husband.

"These are things that I want so badly in life and I wouldn't have made it". Doctors say "there were a lot of unknowns"-as far as they know, nothing like this had ever been done before-but got "courage" knowing that Benoit would "for sure" die that day if they did nothing".

Although it had never been carried out before, doctors chose to remove her lungs entirely.

She has recovered well after receiving donor lungs and doctors say her prognosis is good.

"This was bold and very challenging, but Melissa was dying before our eyes", said Dr. Shaf Keshavjee in a news release.

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"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.

Six days later, a pair of donor lungs became available.

Physicians placed her on Extra-Corporeal Lung Support (ECLS), a temporary life-support medical device that supports the work of the lungs and heart.

"I remember waking up and my mom was there, and she said, 'Hi Melissa.' And I couldn't say hi and I couldn't really figure it out but she explained what had happened and I didn't really believe her at all".

"And literally within minutes - it was probably around 20 minutes after having taken those infected lungs out - her blood pressure normalized and they could remove all the blood pressure-supporting drugs and just leave her on the pumps that were providing the circulation", Keshavjee said.

The procedure was registered in the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, this being the first time a patient lives for so long by being connected to a respiratory support machine. However, it was not until six days later that a donor was found and the surgery could be performed. "We needed this chance", he said. I wouldn't be reading stories to my daughter.

Lying in a hospital bed, she had become weak and couldn't even lift her head, stand or even sit up; but a month after the operation she was able to walk without the support of a walker or cane. "But I'm just so grateful, so happy to be home", said Benoit, who had to go on dialysis after her kidneys failed as a result of the sepsis.

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