Woman lives for 6 days without lungs

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A Canadian woman's bout with influenza has turned her into a medical pioneer. (WPVI)

A Canadian woman's bout with influenza has turned her into a medical pioneer.

When Melissa Benoit, 33, got the flu last April, her lungs were quickly overwhelmed, because of damage from cystic fibrosis.

The bacterial infection became resistant to most antibiotics an spread through her body.

As she slid into septic shock, doctors made a radical decision - to remove her lungs, and keep her alive by machines.

Surgery to remove the lungs took nine hours.

Benoit was being kept alive by two machines: A Novalung to take the place of the lungs in infusing blood with oxygen while removing carbon dioxide, and an ECMO machine, to help her heart pump blood through her body.

Six days later, her body had recovered enough to receive donor lungs.

Benoit, a nurse, thought her family was lying when they told her she had lived without lungs.

But now that she knows it's real, and has had time to recover, she's thrilled.

"Whoa! I can climb a flight of stairs now. It feels so different. It's something that is taken for granted so easily during the day. But now, every breath that I take is.... wow!!" she told a news conference in Toronto.

Doctors believe it's the first time the procedure was ever done.

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