The recipient of the nation's first successful double lung transplant is recovering and is expected to leave the hospital later this week.
Doctors at Sichuan University's Huaxi Hospital carried out the procedure early last month.
"I extend my heartfelt thanks to the doctors at Huaxi Hospital. Without their efforts, I would surely have died long ago," said Huang Yisheng, 38, a former coal miner from Bazhong, in northeastern Sichuan.
Huang had been suffering from pneumoconiosis, or black lung disease, as a result of his many years working down in the pits in northwest China's Shaanxi Province.
He said he first became aware of a change in his health in 2000, when he noticed an unquenchable thirst.
"In 2003, I started to use a bucket rather than a cup to drink water. I would drink 12.5 kg of water in one day," he said.
Huang started having difficulty breathing in December and then fainted while working underground in the mine. Doctors told him he had black lung.
Upon returning to his home in Sichuan, Huang's respiratory system failed. He sought treatment at Huaxi Hospital. Professor Liu Lunxu of the department of cardiothoracic surgery and professor Liang Zong'an of the department of respiratory medicine told him he would live for no more than six months if he did not have a lung transplant.
On the morning of August 8, Huang was wheeled into the operating room to undergo a double lung transplant.
Liu and his assistants first removed and replaced Huang's ailing right lung, leaving his left lung functional.
An hour after surgeons had joined the veins to the new lung, the clamp on the right pulmonary artery was loosened and blood entered the transplanted right lung.
As the new lung started functioning, Liu and his assistants removed and replaced the remaining diseased lung.
"Blood flowed smoothly in both new lungs, meaning the the six-hour operation was a success," Liu said.
Huang regained consciousness two hours after the operation ended. Ten hours later, he was taken off of life support and his breathing tube was removed.
"At that time, I could breathe freely. Both lungs worked normally," Huang said.
After leaving the hospital, Huang will have to take medicine and undergo regular check-ups to make sure his body does not reject the new organs, Liu said.
Transplants are the only treatment for end-stage lung disease. Double lung transplants, which cost more than 200,000 yuan ($26,700) in Huang's case, can be complicated. Only a few hospitals in China have attempted single-lung operations.
The successful double-lung operation was the result of nearly 20 years of preparations by doctors at Huaxi Hospital, said professor Yang Junjie, who works in Liu's department.
The world's first lung transplant operations were conducted in the 1970s. Huaxi Hospital started experimenting with animals in 1988. In 2005, the hospital set up a lung transplant team consisting of Liu and Liang.
The team studied at the Lung Transplant Service at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, Australia. They returned to Huaxi Hospital at the end of last year, Yang said.
(China Daily September 18, 2007)