Woman Survives 6 days Without Lungs
Melissa Benoit had a terminal lung infection, she waited an unprecedented 6 days without lungs whilst waiting for a transplant. This left her muscles unable to even support her head, but thanks to physiotherapy she can now walk again
Born with cystic fibrosis, an inherited disease resulting in increased production of thick, sticky sputum, Melissa already had a compromised respiratory system, and a bout with influenza left her fighting for her life. Sedated and ventilated the outlook was bleak and her only hope of surviving was to have a transplant.
She was put on extracorporeal life support but she kept deteriorating and her condition eventually progressed to multi-organ failure, something radical needed to happen to treat the infection. In April 2016, a team of 13 operating staff, including 3 surgeons, over the course of 9 hours, removed both of her lungs. Usually at this stage the new lungs are then transplanted into the body, however this didn't happen.
She was placed on ECMO for 6 days until donor lungs were available. Incredibly, even without lungs in her body, her condition stabilised and they were able to stop all vasoactive support before leaving the operating room. Her condition steadily improved and after an uneventful transplant the ECMO was weaned. The illness left her muscles unable to even support her head, but thanks to a carefully planned physiotherapy programme she can now walk again.