Woman Kept Alive for Six Days Without Lungs While Surgeons Waited for Transplant Donor


For six excruciating days, a Canadian woman was kept alive without her lungs by surgeons desperate to save her while waiting for an organ donor.

Melissa Benoit, 33, suffered from cystic fibrosis, a congenital disorder that causes a thick build-up of mucus in the lungs. But her condition last spring was far worse than that – a bad bout of the H1N1 virus left her with severely infected lungs that couldn't function.

The infection had spread throughout her body and was resistant to antibiotics. Even a ventilator couldn’t provide her system with enough oxygen to survive.

Her organs, one by one, began to shut down. She was drowning in mucus, pus and blood, doctors said.

“Melissa was dying before our eyes,” said Dr. Shaf Keshavjee, a chief surgeon at Toronto General Hospital.

She desperately need a double transplant, but was too sick to undergo surgery. So physicians spoke with the woman’s family and suggested removing both of Benoit’s lungs - the source of her deadly infection - and keeping her alive with artificial breathing machines until a donor could be found. Continue reading