'Really gives me hope': New technology expected to increase number of lung transplants in B.C.
Cheryl Deyalsingh still has a lot she wants to do, including take a dream trip to Greece and spend time with her daughters and grandson.
The 70-year-old is also one of about 40 British Columbians currently on the wait list for a lung transplant.
“I just want to be around a lot longer,” she said.
Deyalsingh was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 1989, and then pulmonary fibrosis, a disease which leaves the lungs damaged and scarred and makes it hard to breathe. It’s also a disease that’s gotten progressively worse throughout the years, leading to Deyalsingh being added to the wait list last June.
“It was a relief being put on the list, but it was shocking to know you’re so sick, you need to go on the list,” she said.
Now, a new piece of cutting-edge technology at Vancouver General Hospital is giving people on the list for a lung transplant a new reason to hope. The Ex Vivo Lung Perfusion machine is the first of its kind in B.C. Lung transplant surgeon Dr. John Yee said the machine can keep lungs intended for transplant alive for up to five hours, to allow for testing and even “reconditioning” – meaning lungs that would once have been deemed unusable could be transplanted.
“Unfortunately (in) about 70 per cent of donors, the lungs are in some condition that we can’t use them safely,” Yee said.
The Ex Vivo machine ventilates the lungs, while a solution containing oxygen, nutrients, and proteins is pumped in to help the organ recover.
“We’re hoping to increase our pool of available organs by about 15 to 20 per cent,” Yee said.
VGH supervisor of perfusion services Amandeep Sidhu said by about the three-hour mark, a decision can typically be made about whether the lung is ready to transplant.
“This is going to increase our donor pool that we have in the province,” Sidhu said.
The machine, which costs about US$250,000, is expected to help facilitate up to 12 more lung transplants a year.
For Deyalsingh, the news is exciting.
"[It] really gives me hope," she said.