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Health Watch

Patient receives donor lung still breathing

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The wait for an organ transplant can be heart-wrenching.

Fernando Padilla is passionate about two things: his car and his family. But for more than two years, he was not able to enjoy either because he had pulmonary fibrosis. His lungs were slowly being covered by scar tissue.

"I couldn't do anything. I couldn't function," Padilla said.

Padilla was going through three tanks of oxygen a day.

"I would sit on the couch, and if I dropped something, it was a struggle for me to pick it up," Padilla said.

A lung transplant was his only hope. When a donor was found, Fernando learned he'd make history by being the first man in the U.S. to get donor lungs that were still breathing.

"We can keep a human organ alive outside of a human body," said Dr. Abbas Ardehali, a Transplant Program Director.

The lungs are put in a high-tech box where they are revived to a warm, breathing state. A machine circulates blood and oxygen through it, allowing the lungs to be outside of the body for eight hours or possibly more.

"As far as the organ is concerned, it still feels like it is in a human body because it is still breathing," Ardehali said.

Today, Fernando is healthy and back in the driver's seat. The breathing lung device follows the "Heart in a Box" technology, which delivers donor hearts in a similar manner.

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