Canadian Nurse Survives 6 Days on Artificial Lungs

Woman Survives 6 Days Without Lungs

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

Dr. Shaf Keshavjee, the chief surgeon at University Health Network, made a decision to take both her lungs out - a procedure they have never done before.

The whole procedure took around nine hours, and was carried out by 13 operating staff.

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.

Doctors in Canada say they saved a woman's life by removing her lungs for six days.

"But I'm just so grateful, so happy to be home", said Benoit. Melissa Benoit is now able to run and to play with her 2-year-old daughter without wheezing.

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 had to make a decision because Melissa was going to die that night". "Melissa gave us the courage to go ahead", he said. Keshavjee said within minutes of Benoit's lungs being removed she showed signs of improvement. As a result, Benoit's internal organs were damaged, especially her lungs.

"Essentially, trying this procedure could have been a death sentence", Ms Benoit told a press conference in Toronto. She suffered from septic shock, which led to a massive drop in her blood pressure, causing multiple organ failure.

The two machines responsible for keeping Melissa alive as the lungs were removed, and over the course of the following six days, were a Novalung and an Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO).

"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.

She had lived with the disease, but after contracting the H1N1 virus, her lungs were deemed inoperable in the long term. The doctors didn't know whether they could work long-term, or whether Benoit would succumb to infection or other complications from the tubes running in and out of her body.

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.

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

"We needed this chance", Chris said.

The mother-of-one, who was born with cystic fibrosis, had a severe lung infection and was dying before the eyes of clinicians.

Several months after her ordeal, the woman says she never felt better. Another device helped her heart circulate the oxygen-rich blood throughout her body.

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