Make your home page

Health Spotlight: Living without lungs

Health Spotlight: Living without lungs

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — More than 2,000 people in the United States received a lung transplant last year. Today, nearly a thousand people are waiting for the lifesaving surgery, and now, surgeons have developed a new innovative way to extend a patient’s life while they’re waiting for a donor.

34-year-old Davey Bauer’s lungs were in terrible shape. A snowboarder, skateboarder, fisherman, and golfer – at 21, Davey smoked a pack of cigarettes a day. Ten years ago, he switched to vaping.

“It’s, honestly, more addicting than cigarettes,” said Davey.

And then, last year, he caught the flu.

“The lungs, you know, were so heavily infected that they started to liquify and he had developed puss in both his cavities, and, literally, if you look at his x-ray, there’s nothing left,” said Ankit Bharat, thoracic surgeon at Northwestern Medicine, MD.

Surgeons at Northwestern Medicine created a new life-saving procedure to save Davey.

“It was very clear to me that he needed a double-lung transplant, but it was also very clear that he would not survive that transplant,” said Bharat.

Dr. Bharat removed Davey’s damaged lungs and created an artificial lung.

“After we took both his lungs out and engineered a system that could be attached to his body and keep his blood flow to the heart, keep his brain and other organs perfused,” said Bharat.

They placed double D breast implants inside his chest cavity to keep his heart in place.

“So, within 24 hours after we took out the lungs, his body started to get better,” said Bharat

Within 48 hours, Davey had new lungs.

“I can’t even put it into words. I mean, they gave me a second chance at life,” said Davey.

Doctors believe this new procedure could help others survive when they’re out of options, giving their bodies time to heal from infections and giving them the best possible chance of surviving a lung transplant.

This story was created from a script aired on WISH-TV. Health Spotlight is presented by Community Health Network.