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  1. ITV Report

Doctors save a mother's life by removing her lungs for six days

Melissa with her daughter Olivia in hospital Credit: UHN

In what is believed to be a world first, doctors saved a mother's life by removing her lungs for six days while she waited for a transplant.

Melissa Benoit, from Toronto, was taken to hospital in April with a severe lung infection and was told she has just hours to live.

Doctors decided to try the the radical surgery on Ms Benoit, who had been born with cystic fibrosis.

Ms Benoit, then 32, spent the next six days in intensive care without lungs, kept alive by technology that oxygenated and circulated her blood until donor organs became available and she was able to have a life-saving transplant.

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Six days later a pair of donor lungs became available and Benoit underwent a successful lung transplant.

When Ms Benoit, who has a three-year-old daughter, first learned of the surgery that had saved her life, she didn’t believe it.

She said: "It took me a while to realise what happened. I just couldn’t piece it together.

"You really come from the brink of death to back living at home. But I’m just so grateful, so happy to be home.”

Melissa with her husband and daughter after the operation Credit: UHN

Dr Shaf Keshavjee, who was one of three thoracic surgeons who operated together on Melissa to remove both her lungs, said: "This was bold and very challenging, but Melissa was dying before our eyes.

"We had to make a decision because Melissa was going to die that night. Melissa gave us the courage to go ahead."

Dr Keshavjee said the team weighed the pros and cons and presented the idea of the last-ditch procedure to her family and they immediately agreed.

She had made it very clear that she wants to live for her family, for her child, and to do anything - experimental or not - to give her a chance if we could do it.

– Dr Keshavjee

After months in hospital she was left unable to sit up or stand.

However, her strength has been improved and in the past month she has been walking without a cane.