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TORONTO – In what’s believed to be a world first, Canadian doctors say they were able to save a young mother’s life with a radical procedure — they removed her lungs.

Melissa Benoit, who was born with cystic fibrosis and had developed a rampaging lung infection that had spread throughout her body, was hours away from death last April when doctors at Toronto General Hospital were given the go-ahead by her family to take the unprecedented step.

Benoit, then 32, spent the next six days in the ICU without lungs, kept alive by state-of-the-art technology that oxygenated and circulated her blood until donor organs came available and she was able to have a life-saving transplant.

On a ventilator and in an induced coma, the Burlington, Ont., mother of a three-year-old daughter had been unaware of how close she had come to dying or what doctors had done to save her life.

“I didn’t believe it,” she said, recalling what her husband, Chris, and her parents told her after she regained consciousness. “It took me a while to realize what happened. I just couldn’t piece it together.”

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