Woman Survives 6 Days Without Lungs
As she slid into septic shock, doctors made a radical decision - to remove her lungs, and keep her alive by machines.
Doctors removed Melissa's lung and kept her alive for six whole days! The most common diseases that can be treated with a lung transplant are chronic bronchitis, emphysema, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and pulmonary arterial hypertension, and lastly, cystic fibrosis, which was the condition that led Melissa Benoit to undergo the unsafe procedure that allowed her to enjoy her daughter's toddler years.
Dr Niall Ferguson, head of critical care medicine at the University Health Network and Mount Sinai, said that the influenza had "tipped her over the edge into respiratory failure". Then, last February, a bout of swine flu sent her spiraling toward death.
"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.
"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. "Melissa gave us the courage to go ahead".
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. We needed this chance".
But at the same time they knew that removing them could potentially eliminate the source of bacterial infection.
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"I'm a nurse as a professional and of course I had never heard of such a thing in my entire life", said Benoit. "He had to trust in himself, knowing me, relying on past conversations, and he chose exactly what I would have told him to".
A risky procedure, it was unclear whether Ms Benoit's blood pressure and oxygen levels could be sustained during surgery and there was the possibility that she could bleed into the empty chest cavity.
She still faces hurdles as a lung transplant recipient, doctors said. However, it was not until six days later that a donor was found and the surgery could be performed.
Early in the morning, the woman was sedated, and a team of highly-skilled surgeons began the lung removal intervention which took more than nine hours.
Quietly, though, her team of doctors had been mulling a procedure that could extend her life but had never been tried. 6 days later, her body had recovered enough to receive donor lungs.
This added oxygen to her blood, removed carbon dioxide and helped maintain continuous blood flow. She was forced to use a walker and then a cane, but now she can walk without assistance. Doctors said the procedure was "perfect". Most of Olivia's memories were of her mother getting weaker and weaker, or "sleeping", as the child calls her mom's weeks in a coma.
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