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Melissa Benoit lived for six days without either of her lungs

28 January 2017

A pair of donor lungs became available six days later and Mrs Benoit was stable enough to receive a transplant.

A small, portable artificial lung known as a Novalung was connected to her heart, oxygenating her blood and removing carbon dioxide.

Keshavjee and the team comprising of 13 members removed Melissa's lungs in a nine-hour procedure.

The list of unknowns was long, from the risk of bleeding into the empty chest cavity to whether her blood pressure and oxygen levels could be sustained once her lungs were removed.

When Benoit finally came to after the transplant, her muscles were so deconditioned from having spent more than three months in hospital before the back-to-back operations, she couldn't even lift her hand to let her family know she was conscious.

"I didn't believe it", she said, recalling what her husband, Chris, and her parents told her after she regained consciousness.

"Things were so bad for so long, we needed something to go right", Chris said, "and this new procedure was the first piece of good news in a long time".

Melissa Benoit lived for six days without either of her lungs
Melissa Benoit lived for six days without either of her lungs

'We had to make a decision because Melissa was going to die that night.

Melissa Benoit, then 32, was taken into Toronto General Hospital's medical surgical intensive care unit in April 2016.

Benoit says she initially didn't believe it when told she'd had her lungs removed and a transplant nearly a week later. They had no idea how long they'd have to wait until a new set of lungs would be available for transplant.

"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.

"It took me a while to realize what happened", Benoit told The Guardian. "So it was a day-to-day thing, and thankfully in about five to six days, we did get donor lungs offered that were her correct blood type and a reasonable size match, so we could go ahead with the transplant".

As part of her recovery, Melissa has had to learn how to lift her head, raise her torso and stand again after nearly six months in bed following the operation. I wouldn't be reading stories to my daughter. Dr. Keshavjee is Surgeon-in-Chief, Sprott Department of Surgery at UHN, and one of three thoracic surgeons who operated together on Melissa. "We needed this chance". "I get to be home and it is the best feeling in the world". "Her only hope of recovery was a lung transplant", Dr Ferguson said.

"Because of how sick I had become here in the ICU, my kidneys shut down and I went into acute kidney failure and unfortunately, they have decided not to recover", she said. 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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Melissa Benoit lived for six days without either of her lungs