At a press conference in Wednesday, the head of the hospital's lung transplant program said Melissa Benoit, 32, had only hours to live when her family gave the go-ahead for the procedure, the Canadian Press (CP) wire service reported.
A team of 13 operating staff, including three thoracic surgeons, removed Mrs Benoit's lungs in a nine-hour procedure.
A risky procedure, it was unclear whether Ms Benoit's blood pressure and oxygen levels could be sustained during surgery and there was the possibility that she could bleed into the empty chest cavity.
The doctors had no choice but to recommend a high-risk and experimental surgical approach - removing the woman's lungs, and keeping her on life support until a viable donor could be identified.
"Having this transplant saved my life", Mrs Benoit said. Now, months after the procedure, Benoit can play with her 2-year-old daughter and walk without wheezing or struggling to breathe. "Things were so bad for so long, we needed something to go right". "We didn't know if we'd get [them] in one day or one month", said Keshavjee.
Still, that initial decision to remove her lungs - the source of an antibiotic-resistant infection that had tipped her into widespread organ failure and septic shock - wasn't taken lightly. "Her new lungs functioned beautifully and inflated easily".
"It was a hard discussion because when we're talking about something that had never to our knowledge been done before, there were a lot of unknowns", said Dr. Niall Ferguson, head of critical care at the University Health Network, which includes Toronto General.
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By April, she gasped for air with every breath. Her inflamed lungs began to fill with blood, pus and mucous, leaving her feeling as if she were drowning.
Six days later a pair of donor lungs became available and Benoit underwent a successful lung transplant. Surgery to remove the lungs took 9 hours.
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.
The Canadian nurse remained on life support for six days until the doctors were able to find viable lungs. "When you have CF, you cough all the time", she said, dabbing away tears.
Keshavjee, the surgeon, told The Washington Post this week that doctors saw positive signs nearly immediately, though that was the most nerve-racking time for him.
This added oxygen to her blood, removed carbon dioxide and helped maintain continuous blood flow.
Melissa remains on kidney dialysis, but is now able to play with her young daughter "for whole days" without getting exhausted and his not needed a walker or cane for a month. "But I'm just so grateful, so happy to be home", she said further.