A 33-year-old man from Constance Lake First Nation is lucky to be going home today after undergoing a rare procedure at a Sudbury hospital to treat an unusual lung infection.

Terrance Sutherland was admitted last November with a severe infection caused by fungus found in soil or wood.

He was suffering from a severe case of blastomycosis, which is usually fatal.

Sutherland continued to deteriorate after he was placed on mechanical ventilation, so the treatment team at Health Sciences North decided to perform a procedure called extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO).

ECMO is a process in which blood is removed from the body through a tube, oxygenated by a special ECMO machine, then returned to the body through a second tube placed near the heart.


It was a risky undertaking, said Dr. Derek Manchuk, the medical director of the intensive care unit at the hospital.

"Patients who deteriorate to the point where they require … ECMO … have never recovered or survived that procedure," he said.

"So this is remarkable in terms of Terrance's will to live and resilience. It was remarkable in the sense that the multi-disciplinary team was required to pull this off."

ECMO is a rare procedure and performed in only a few centres in Ontario. It is only the third time in the past 10 years the procedure has been attempted at Health Sciences North.

Manchuk added this may be the first time someone with such a severe case of blastomycosis has survived this kind of treatment.

After being placed on ECMO for close to three weeks, Sutherland’s condition stabilized and he was finally able to start breathing on his own on at the end of December.  He was released from hospital Thursday.

"This got me thinking how precious life is," Sutherland was quoted in a hospital press release. "Thank you to the staff in ICU for taking such great care of me."