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Teenager Undergo Incredible Surgery to Survive


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It sounds like something from a science fiction movie - a teenager placed into "suspended animation" with his body cooled down and drained of all its blood, his heart stopped and his brain shut down.

But the remarkable and risky procedure is no fantasy. It happened in Perth a month ago as doctors raced against the clock to save Adelaide teenager Ayrton Anderson from a lethal blood clotting disorder that was robbing him of oxygen.

Today, the 17-year-old, who once had to carry an oxygen bottle just to walk a few steps, can scale a flight of stairs and can expect to live a near-normal life.

Ayrton had a rare blood clotting disorder which caused pressure to build up in his pulmonary arteries, the vessels that take blood from the heart to the lungs to be oxygenated.

Over time this had led to severely blocked arteries and he faced a virtual death sentence.

But a few thousand kilometres away, Royal Perth Hospital's head of cardiothoracic surgery Mark Edwards was one of the few doctors in the world with experience in carrying out pulmonary thromboendarterectomy, a complex operation that can cure the condition.

Dr Edwards has done about 20 of the procedures in the past decade but never on someone so young.

The stakes were high as the young man's vital organ functions were closed down to give Dr Edwards a precious window of opportunity to clear the pulmonary arteries.

"In this surgery we put the patient on a heart-lung machine, cool the body down to 18C and then drain all the blood out of the body and turn the circulation off so to all intents and purposes the patient is dead," he said.

"They have no brain activity, their head is packed in ice, and they are in what has been described as suspended animation.

"Once we've done that, we open up the arteries to the lungs and clean them out, which takes 20 to 30 minutes on each side."

After the arteries were cleared, staff began rewarming Ayrton and bringing his organs back on line.

Remarkably, he was out of hospital within a week. Dr Edwards said he had been a surgeon for many years but it was by far the most complex surgery he had done.

"It's risky . . . it's a stiff whisky at the end of the day type of operation," he said.

"But we had little choice. He was going downhill and getting more short of breath and eventually it would have led to death from either respiratory or heart failure.

"We're hopeful now he can lead a near-normal life."

Ayrton said it was like someone had lifted a huge weight off his chest.

"I can take a deep breath and my lungs feel a lot clearer," he said.

If anyone is more grateful than him, it is his parents Ross and Isabell.

Mr Anderson said they had watched helplessly a year or so ago as their son, then barely 16, had begun losing breath and had become solitary, not wanting to leave the house.

"We were told he only had a few years left and then we heard about Dr Edwards," he said. "Already the difference has been amazing."

insanity i tell ya, insaannnnityyyy


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