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A New York woman is thriving after receiving the first trachea transplant

April 7, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 44.7%. 2 min read.

After years of struggling to breathe and fearing she might suffocate in her sleep, Sonia Sein says she feels well enough to dance around with her grandchildren after undergoing the first-ever human trachea transplant at Mount Sinai in New York.

(CNN)After years of struggling to breathe and fearing she might suffocate in her sleep, Sonia Sein says she feels well enough to dance around with her grandchildren after undergoing the first-ever human trachea transplant at Mount Sinai in New York.

When I took that first breath it was heaven," said Sein, who had the life-changing surgery in January.

Genden has been researching long-segment tracheal transplants for 30 years -- a quest he says began when he was in medical school.

"Even as a student, it was odd to me that we could transplant kidneys to reconstruct and transplant livers and even hearts, but there was no way to transplant the trachea," Genden told CNN.

The biggest obstacle was figuring out how to get blood to the donor trachea because of the organ's complex structure of tiny blood vessels, he said.

Genden said they are monitoring Sein closely and she's shown no signs of rejecting the new trachea.

"She's actually done incredibly well, frankly, better than we ever thought she would," Genden said.

Genden said Sein can now eat and breathe normally after the transplant.

She still has a port in her throat, so doctors can insert a probe to look at transplant, but Genden said they would be able to close the hole in a few weeks.

Sein said that she tried to stay active before the transplant, but it was hard because she would have to clean and suction her breathing tube to keep it from getting clogged.

She began researching trachea transplants after her previous doctors said there was nothing more they could do for her.

"I was angry, so I started researching, because I thought they should be a transplant for a trachea if they've got transplants for everything else," she said.

Genden said the transplant could provide new hope to patients, who've had trachea damage caused by burns, congenital defects and extended stays in the ICU -- including people with severe intubation damage after Covid-19.

"It's not a quality of life treatment," Genden said of the transplant.

Dr. David Klassen, chief medical officer for the United Network for Organ Sharing, called the transplant a "really exciting development," but said it is still an experimental, research procedure and there is a lot to be learned about the long-term outcomes.

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