First Transplant of a Trachea in The U.S

First Transplant of a Trachea in The U.S

Rowan Oxley, Reporter

There has been a major milestone in medicine and medical practice. The first transplant of a trachea, or windpipe, in the United States has gone underway and so far, there have been no complications or rejection. The patient, Sonia Sein, a fifty-six year old social worker, had severe asthma and struggled to breathe for years after treatment for a severe asthma attack in 2014 damaged her trachea.

Sein has been living with her breathing struggle for years since her asthma attack in 2014 left her unable to breathe. A tube was inserted into her throat that saved her life by allowing her to breathe, but severely damaged her trachea. She underwent several surgeries to help fix it, but none of them were successful until this transplant. Doctor Albert Merati believes this could help save COVID-19 patients, saying, “Without a doubt we are already seeing some impact” from patients on breathing machines such as ventilators and the iron lung. This new operation could help solve that damage, as well as helping people with tracheal birth defects and untreatable airway diseases.

A patient in the Iron Lung, a breathing machine that has saved lives

Currently, Sein is recovering at home, and Doctor Genden says she is doing wonderfully. Sein says the surgery already helps her do things she couldn’t before. “Now I feel good,” Sein said. “I dance with my granddaughter we chase each other around the house. I jump on my grandson. We play, we watch a movie together. I cook for them. We’re making the memories together.”

Before Sein’s surgery, she says she had to quit her job because if she talked too long, she would have to stop because she was unable to breathe. With this surgery, she feels she is doing much better, but she does have to take drugs to prevent organ rejection.

The image to the right is an X-Ray of a collapsed trachea, an uncommon occurrence. This happens very rarely, but when it does happen, it can ruin a life. A tracheal collapse can have side effects ranging from difficulty breathing to severe coughing fits, bad enough to disrupt daily activities. These can even be bad enough to kill, if left untreated long enough.

A tracheal collapse is what we call cartilage and muscle weakening and becoming extremely unstable. The trachea, now weak and floppy, collapses and causes difficulty breathing, in extreme cases even preventing the victim from being able to breathe at all.

With this new surgery, we could save and improve the quality of so many lives. With this, we will save so many families so much pain and fear. We will look forward to seeing how many people are helped with these surgeries.