An Ontario mother has become the first patient in North America to be kept alive using an external artificial lung the size of a CD casewhile she waited for a pair of donor lungs to become available.
One of the country's leading lung transplant teams performed the surgery at the Toronto General Hospital in early December using the German-made Novalung.
Yen Tran, 21, of Markham, spoke about the surgery Wednesday, with her husband, four-year-old fraternal twins and 14-month-old son by her side.
Tran was first diagnosed with primary pulmonary hypertension, a rare lung disorder, after giving birth to her third child, Kenny.
At first, she thought she was just out of shape.
"Something so simple as walking and talking, honestly, I wasn't able to have a full conversation with someone without taking breaks," Tran said.
Tran's health was failing and doctors finally decided totry using Novalung, a device that has been used on critically injured soldiers in Iraq.
The device is about the size of a CD case and powered by the patient's heartbeat instead of a pump.
Blood flows into the device from a catheter inserted in a large blood vessel in the thigh. The device adds oxygen and filters carbon dioxide out of the blood, then returns it to the body.
Tran used the device for one day before adonated lung and heart became available. A heart transplant was necessary because her heart failed during theoperation.
Mom playing with kids again
Doctors left the artificial lung attached one more day after the transplant to allow the donated lung time to rest.
"This has taken lung transplantation and the number of patients we can save to a new height," said Dr. Shaf Keshavjee, director of the lung transplant program at the Toronto hospital, who led the team of 20 in Tran's transplant.
Meanwhile, Tran is enjoying her newfound energy by playing with her three children.
"I'd be like, 'Mom's too tired. I'm sorry. I can't,'" Tran said. "But now I can play with them."