Melissa Benoit, a young mother aged 32, from Canada underwent a unique surgical procedure, which was never been carried out before.
Benoit was admitted to the Toronto General Hospital and was given only a few hours to live. She was diagnosed with genetic lung infection, Cystic Fibrosis (CF). The doctors were forced to remove her lungs, and she lived without them for six days, waiting for a transplant!
It was a tough decision to take for the doctor regarding whether to try the unprecedented procedure.
"It was a difficult 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.
Benoit was stricken with influenza, causing respiratory failure. The doctors were left with the only option of removing her lungs and keeping her on a ventilator.
"She got into a spiral from which her lungs were not going to recover," said Ferguson, according to The Guardian.
"Her only hope of recovery was a lung transplant," he added.
The 32-year-old was put on a temporary life support system and her health condition worsened as the bacteria in her lungs turned resistant to most drugs. She suffered from septic shock, which led to a massive drop in her blood pressure, causing multiple organ failure.
The doctors then considered removing both lungs to eradicate the source of the infection.
But befire they could do that, they had to answer numerous questions: Could they maintain the oxygen and blood pressure levels once the lungs were remove? Would she suffer from bleeding into her chest cavity if the lungs were detached from her body?
"What helped us is the fact that we knew it was a matter of hours before she would die," said one of the surgeons, Dr Shaf Keshavjee, who operated on Benoit, The Guardian stated.
"That gave us the courage to say, if we're ever going to save this woman, we're going to do it now," he added.
Chris, Benoit's husband agreed to let her undergo the procedure for the sake of their three-year-old daughter.
"We needed this chance," Chris said.
"Things were so bad for so long, we needed something to go right," Chris said further.
Benoit's operation was finally carried out in mid-April by a group of 13 surgeons.
Her infected lungs were bloated because of excess fluid accumulation, a symptom of Cystic fibrosis (CF), and it was "hard as a football" which made it quite challenging to remove it from her chest, Keshavjee explained.
"Technically, it was difficult to get them out of her chest," Keshavjee told The Guardian.
The surgery went on for nine hours and soon a drastic imporovement could be seen in her condition.
"And literally within minutes – it was probably around 20 minutes after having taken those infected lungs out – her blood pressure normalised, and they could remove all the blood-pressure-supporting drugs and just leave her on the pumps that were providing the circulation," said Keshavjee, according to the Canadian Press.
Benoit's heart was attached to a small artificial lung, the rest of the equipment circulated her blood and oxygen. Donor lungs were yet to be found and doctors had no clue how long it would take to find one. They were also unsure how long they could support Benoit in this manner.
"We didn't know if we'd get [them] in one day or one month," said Keshavjee.
A pair of lungs finally became available six days later and the pioneering transplant she underwent was a success.
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.
The genetic disease damaged her kidney, but she is hoping to undergo a kidney transplant soon, it is likely the kidney will be donated by her mother.
"It took me a while to realise what happened. I just couldn't piece it together," Benoit told The Guardian.
"You really come from the brink of death to back living at home. But I'm just so grateful, so happy to be home," she said further.
You could check out an interview of Melissa Benoit in this video: