A Missouri man whose organs shut down due to his 10-year vaping habit was saved in an unconventional way — by getting outfitted with breast implants.
“I thought it was awesome, kind of funny,” Davey Bauer, 34, told CBS News of the unorthodox operation, which went down in May at Chicago’s Northwestern Medical Center.
“He was at the end of the road,” Dr. Ankit Bharat, the facility’s chief of Thoracic Surgery and director of the Canning Thoracic Institute, said of the successful, last-ditch effort.
The St. Louis resident started smoking cigarettes when he was 21. However, he switched to vaping in 2014 because — like many young people — he thought it was a healthier way to get his nicotine fix, People reported.
The landscaper reportedly smoked a cartridge a day, which is equal to puffing a pack of cigarettes, according to the National Library of Medicine.
Nonetheless, everything seemed to be hunky dory until this past April, when the Missourian contracted the flu.
He subsequently became infected with a virulent strain of Pseudomonas bacteria, which causes infections that are difficult to remedy amid the spike in antibiotic resistance, People reported.
His condition deteriorated to the point that his lungs had started to liquefy, according to Dr. Rade Tomic, director of the lung transplant program at Northwestern.
It got so bad that Bauer’s medical team in St. Louis reportedly considered withdrawing care because they thought he was beyond saving.
Bauer was transferred to Northwestern Medical Center in Chicago, where he went into cardiac arrest upon arrival.
The hospital realized that Bauer wouldn’t survive a lung transplant in his current state and determined they had to clear the infection before performing surgery — a decision that would require them to remove “both lungs,” according to Tomic.
That’s when the breast implants entered the equation.
After removing both of his lungs, the surgical team kept Bauer alive with an external synthetic lung — and they then placed DD breast implants in his chest cavity to keep his heart from slipping out of position.
It marked the first time the operation was performed at Northwestern and effectively bridged the gap between medical and cosmetic surgery.
“We had to come up with something very creative,” Bharat said. “This is the only way we could logically create a solution that may give the patient a fighting chance.”
Thankfully, Bauer’s impromptu boob job appeared to do the trick.
Within 24 hours, the team found donor lungs that matched the patient’s infected ones, and they were successfully implanted after removing the bad ones, as well as the breast implants.
After staying in intensive care for several months, Bauer was discharged in September.
He will remain in Chicago for the next year so that doctors can ensure there are no issues regarding his new lungs.
Bauer now says he feels “blessed” to be alive.
“It’s incredible. I got a second chance at life,” gushed the Missourian, who also sees the humor in the procedure.
In homage to the unlikely treatment, doctors gifted the patient a jersey emblazoned with “DD Davey” — a moniker he plans to adopt and use as a gaming profile.
Meanwhile, Bharat views Bauer’s case as “remarkable because it shows that we can keep patients alive after removing their lungs through new technology, which can be transformative for many critically ill patients.”
The doctor does believe that vaping certainly played a role in his life-threatening illness, given that he was otherwise “young and healthy.”
“Lungs are designed to breathe clean air — they’re not designed to inhale smoke,” he observed.
Bauer is now using his near-fatal saga as a cautionary tale to warn people about the perils of electronic cigarettes.
“I can see how stupid of a habit it was,” he said.
Indeed, Bauer’s not the first to nearly die from vaping, which some experts have said is potentially more dangerous than smoking traditional cigarettes.
This past summer, a New Hampshire fitness fanatic and aspiring MMA fighter had to have part of a lung removed at age 20 after it became freckled with black spots — which he attributed to his chronic e-cigarette use.
In an effort to curb vape use among the younger set, New York state banned the sale of flavored vaping products in 2019.