Northwestern surgeons perform double lung transplant with help of breast implants for 1st time

Doctors needed to ensure 'Double D' Davey's heart wouldn't collapse while he awaited donor lungs

Wednesday, November 8, 2023
Northwestern surgeons replace man's lungs with help of breast implants
After a double lung infection, Northwestern surgeons decided to use breast implants to help a young man survive.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- For the first time, surgeons in Chicago used breast implants and an artificial lung to save a young man's life.

The longtime smoker, and vaper, needed the transplant after getting sick with the flu.

On Wednesday morning, he got to meet those doctors and nurses again, who performed the rare surgery.

Northwestern surgeons spoke on a double-lung transplant recipient Wednesday.

His nickname is now "Double D" Davey.

Doctors at Northwestern Medicine in Streeterville said vaping and two bad infections following the flu severely damaged the patient's lungs.

So, for the first time, they used breast implants to help keep him alive.

Davey Bauer, 34, from St. Louis, Missouri started smoking cigarettes when he was 21 years old, and typically smoked a pack of cigarettes a day.

He switched to vaping in 2014 because he thought it was the better alternative. He was wrong.

"Vaping is very bad for lungs. We know that vaping can cause injury to lungs," said Dr. Rade Tomic with the Northwestern Medicine Canning Thoracic Institute.

Bauer also never had a flu vaccine. When he got the flu, he developed two back-to-back infections in his lungs that were resistant to antibiotics.

He was admitted to a hospital in St. Louis, and placed on a machine to keep his heart and lungs working, but he continued to decline.

A double-lung transplant was his only option to survive.

SEE ALSO: Northwestern Medicine successfully performs double-lung transplant on 2 patients with rare condition

"It became very clear that Davey needed a double lung transplant, but he was too sick to get through one," said Dr. Ankit Bharat, chief of thoracic surgery.

That's when Bauer's doctors reached out to Northwestern Medicine's Lung Transplant team.

Describing the first of its kind procedure, doctors at Northwestern removed Bauer's infected lungs and engineered an "artificial lung," keeping blood flowing to his heart.

But with both lungs removed, surgeons needed a way to keep Bauer's heart from physically collapsing inside the chest cavity, so they decided to use very large breast implants.

"The double 'D' breast implants seem to be the perfect fit, and frankly seem to be the biggest we could get at the time. But we learned from this innovative procedure, now can allow us to help patients who need lung transplants but are too sick to immediately undergo that procedure," Bharat said.

It worked. The surgery happened in May; then Bauer was listed for a double-lung transplant, and a match was found within 24 hours.

"It makes sense that he had to have something to keep his heart centered, so if breast implants make it happen, give him some breast implants," said Susan Gore, Bauer's girlfriend.

Once the infected lungs were out of his body, Bauer immediately started clearing the infection.

Soon after, the breast implants were taken out, and the donor lungs were put in.

Bauer spent several months recovering in the intensive care unit before moving into rehab therapy back in late September.

He will have to be monitored by his transplant team for a year while he recovers.

This is the very first time Northwestern has used an artificial lung and breast implants to save a life.

"I'm feeling great, a lot more like myself before all this, getting better every day," he said. I feel so blessed. "I have a second chance at life."