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Breast Implants Save Man With Severe Lung Damage

Davey Bauer's life was saved by doctors using breast implants as temporary lungs.
Davey Bauer’s life was saved by doctors using breast implants as temporary lungs. Credit: Northwestern Memorial Hospital

A man who was sick and in critical condition due to vaping and pneumonia was rescued by the use of breast implants to replace his damaged lungs. The man is Davey Bauer, a 34-year-old landscaper from St. Louis, Missouri who loves snowboarding. He has smoked since the age of twenty-one.

In 2014, he began vaping, thinking it was a better option for his health. However, he soon realized it was even harder to quit than regular cigarettes. In April, Davey came down with the flu, and everything in his life took a huge turn for the worse.

Life-support for Bauer

Davey Bauer’s health went downhill fast. He had a very tough time breathing and had to go to the hospital in St. Louis because he had pneumonia that couldn’t be treated with regular antibiotics. The doctors had to use a life-support system called ECMO to keep him alive.

It became clear that his only chance was to get a lung transplant, so he had to be taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

Dr. Ankit Bharat, Bauer’s doctor, said, “The day after he arrived, he basically coded. His heart stopped. They’re doing CPR on him. That’s how sick he was.”

He added, “When we opened the chest, it was full of pus, just yellow, nasty, smelly things.”

Using breast implants to bridge the removal of lungs

There wasn’t enough time to wait for someone else’s lungs to become available, and Davey’s own lungs had to be removed to allow him to recover from the infection. The doctors hence came up with a new and creative way to help him.

After Davey’s damaged lungs were taken out, the doctors had to create an artificial lung to help his blood stay oxygenated. But the problem was that with no lungs, his heart could collapse inside his chest. This is when doctors had a clever idea: double-D breast implants would be used.

Dr. Ankit Bharat explained, “One of our plastic surgeons was very gracious to give us a rapid-fire course on the different types, shapes, and sizes of breast implants, so we picked out a couple of options, and some of them were easier than others to mold inside Davey’s chest, with the DD option being the best fit.”

“I never imagined we’d be using DD breast implants to help bridge a patient to lung transplantation,” said Bharat, “but our team is known for taking on the most difficult cases and thinking outside the box to save lives.”

Davey kept the breast implants in his body for two days until he could get the actual new lungs through a transplant. After this, he stayed in the intensive care unit until September. He is going to remain in Chicago for a whole year so doctors can monitor his recovery.

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