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Canadian mother's life saved by removal of lungs

Canadian mother's life saved by removal of lungs

A bout of flu before her admission had led to coughing fits that fractured her ribs.

Benoit was put on a temporary life support device but her condition continued to deteriorate; the bacteria in her lungs became resistant to most antibiotics, sending her body into septic shock and her blood pressure dropping.

She was on maximum doses of three medications to maintain her blood pressure, the most advanced respiratory support, and on last-line powerful antibiotics.

The machine works like a pair of artificial lungs: it drains blood, removes the carbon dioxide, oxygenates it and pumps it back into the body.

Melissa Benoit snuggles with her daughter, Olivia, before receiving a double lung transplant. It's a very fine balance on deciding 'okay, is now the time we removed her lungs?' because the procedure may not have even worked.

Within hours of the procedure, Benoit's condition improved dramatically and she was hooked up to advanced life support technology that included a small portable artificial lung that was connected by arteries and veins to her heart.

Now, she has recovered to the extent where she is able to walk unassisted - and hopes to receive a further kidney transplant from her mother after the ordeal damaged her kidneys. It's something that is taken for granted so easily during the day.

"She said: "[My family] took over and carried the weight when I couldn't.

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When she was being discharged after six months in the hospital, Benoit said a nurse suggested her family go on vacation.

Her organs began to shut down and she had to have kidney dialysis.

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. Two machines were used to keep the Canadian nurse alive - a Novalung, an advanced piece of equipment whose objective is to infuse the blood with oxygen and to remove the carbon dioxide, and another apparatus called the Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation Machine (EMCO) whose duty was to help the woman's heart pump blood to vital areas of the body.

"What helped us is the fact that we knew it was a matter of hours before she would die", said Dr Shaf Keshavjee, one of three surgeons who operated on Benoit.

According to the Benoit's surgeons, when the patient arrived at the hospital, her lungs were literally filled with so much blood and pus, that they were incapable of producing enough oxygen.

When the ventilator was insufficient to offer the necessary support, she was placed on a life support machine - but her situation continued to worsen. "But, it worked and it gave me the second chance that I so desperately needed".

They waited for almost a week - either for lungs to become available or for complications to arise.

"That was the only way I could get her to communicate with me", recalled Sue Dupuis.

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