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Living Without Lungs – Is It Possible? [VIDEO]

Update Date: Jan 27, 2017 08:20 AM EST

A woman diagnosed with cystic fibrosis had her lungs removed for six days while waiting for lung transplant. Medical experts call it historical because it is the first time they had done such procedure.

Melissa Benoit, of Burlington, Ontario, was unconscious and her husband, Chris has to decide to agree with the experimental surgery. The 32 year old woman has cystic fibrosis that affects the cells that produce digestive juices, mucus and sweat. It can cause damage to the lungs, gastrointestinal system and other organs in the body as well. Melissa had a recurrent lung infection for the last three years.

When Melissa was admitted to Toronto General Hospital, she was suffering from severe bacterial infection. Her lungs were drowned in blood and pus and she needed a lung transplant. However, there was no available donor at that time.

Melissa was hooked on Extra-Corporeal Lung Support, a temporary medical life support but her condition got worse. The infection spread into her bloodstream and she had a septic shock. Amanda Spriel, a perfusionist, said the team could no longer perform a lung transplant.

Dr. Shaf Keshavjee, the chief surgeon at University Health Network, decided to take both her lungs out - a procedure they have never done before. Removing the source of infection is a good way to treat the condition.

Keshavjee and the team comprising of 13 members removed Melissa's lungs in a nine-hour procedure. Her lungs were as hard as football filled with pus and mucus. The team hooked a Novalung on the right side of her heart to work with the Extra-Corporeal Lung support machine.

For six days, Melissa lived without lungs as she waits for her donor. Dr Atul Humar, director of the transplant program at Toronto General Hospital and president of the Canadian Society of Transplantation, called the surgery as remarkable and the world's first.

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