Docs work to salvage infected organs
Retired subway and bus driver Stanley De Freitas had just celebrated his 70th birthday when he started coughing, tiring easily and feeling short of breath.
He was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, a severe scarring of the lungs, and put on the waiting list for a transplant.
“Life became unbearable. From the time I got up in the morning until when I went to bed at night, I struggled through every breath of air,” De Freitas, now 74, told Reuters from his home in Toronto.
After two years, De Freitas was offered a lung, with one significant downside: the donor had hepatitis C.
In October 2017, he became the first patient enrolled in a just published study conducted at Toronto General Hospital testing a technique that aimed to flush out and inactivate the hepatitis C virus from donor lungs before a transplant.
The research comes amid a spike in available organs linked to the opioid overdose crisis, meaning many are contaminated by hepatitis C, as the virus is commonly spread by sharing needles.
Since it can easily infect an organ recipient, those organs are usually discarded despite the urgent need.
Researchers are testing different approaches to salvage infected organs.
“Every day I get up ... I thank the doctors because I am not supposed to be here,” he said. “I am supposed to be on the other side.”
Tests are run on a pig’s lung being inflated at a lab run by the University Health Network in Toronto in May.