WEDNESDAY, Nov. 8, 2023 (HealthDay News) — “Davey” Bauer hovered on the precipice of death, his lungs damaged by vaping and congested by antibiotic-resistant pneumonia. Doctors saved his life with a jury-rigged artificial lung, a prompt double-lung transplant … and a set of DD breast implants.
Doctors at Northwestern Medicine crafted an artificial lung to keep Bauer, 34, alive after removing lungs so heavily infected that “they started to liquify,” Rade Tomic, M.D., medical director of the Northwestern Medicine Canning Thoracic Institute Lung Transplant Program in Chicago, said in a Northwestern news release.
But the doctors also needed a way to keep Bauer’s heart from collapsing inside his chest cavity after his infected lungs were removed. That is where the DD breast implants came into play.
The innovative procedure happened in late May, after Bauer, 34, developed an antibiotic-resistant lung infection following a bout with the flu. Initially, Bauer experienced shortness of breath from his infection, but it quickly escalated. He was admitted to a St. Louis hospital and placed on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. Bauer continued to decline, and it became clear that a double-lung transplant was his only hope for survival. Unfortunately, his infection made him a poor candidate for transportation, let alone transplantation.
“When we received a call from Davey’s medical team in St. Louis, we thought we could help him, but it was also very clear he would not survive the transplant in his current condition,” Tomic said. “He needed to clear the infection before we could list him for transplant, but the only way to do that was to remove both lungs.”
Bauer’s surgical team cooked up a strategy to remove the infected lungs and replace them with an engineered “artificial lung” that would keep oxygen flowing to his brain and organs. Breast implants would be used to support his heart until new lungs could be transplanted.
Surgeons removed the infected lungs on May 26, and Bauer’s body immediately began clearing the infection. Doctors put him on the list for a lung transplant that day, and within 24 hours, a set of donor lungs became available.
On May 28, doctors removed the breast implants and implanted the donor lungs. Bauer spent several months recovering in an intensive care unit before being discharged to rehabilitation in late September. Bauer will remain in Chicago for the next year so his transplant team can continue to closely monitor him.
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