The flu can be dangerous, and even deadly, for vulnerable populations.
That’s why the very young and the elderly are especially encouraged to get flu shots each year. For those with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system, an influenza infection is painful and life-threatening.
Melissa Benoit, a Canadian woman with cystic fibrosis, caught the flu and found herself clinging on to life.
Melissa’s flu symptoms were so bad that she was gasping for air and coughing so much that some of her ribs fractured.
Her lungs filled up with blood, mucus, and pus, and none of the treatments she was given could stop the infection from spreading.
That’s when everyone had to make a choice: let Melissa die or remove her lungs. The operation had a less than 1% chance of success, but they knew Melissa wanted to live to see her daughter grow up.
“It was a difficult discussion because when we’re talking about something that had never to our knowledge been done before. There were a lot of unknowns,” said Dr. Niall Ferguson, the University Health Network’s head of critical care.
A 13-member surgical team removed her lungs during a nearly 10-hour operation. They were heavy and sick-looking.
They placed a Novalong, which is a tool to keep someone breathing, in her chest cavity.