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Updated Jun 13, 2013 - 6:33 am

Phoenix hospital performs rare 'lung in box' transplant

The Organ Care System is shown. (KTAR Photo/Bob McClay)

PHOENIX -- It's a first for Arizona: Doctors at St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix have performed a "lung in a box" transplant.

Instead of packing the donor's lungs on ice, St. Joseph's Dr. Michael Smith said a device called the Organ Care System was used to transport the lungs to the hospital for them to be implanted in a patient.

"We still give the cold preservation within the donor's body," said Smith. "Once we take the lungs out of the body, we put them on a machine which perfuses the lungs with blood and oxygenates them with a ventilator."

Essentially, it keeps the lungs breathing outside of the body.

The recipient is 53-year-old lupus patient Estelle Ellington of Hawaii. She has been in St. Joseph's for two weeks and doctors said she is doing well post-surgery.

The hospital is one of five in the country doing clinical trials on the machine.

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About the Author


Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I am married to my wife Rene', who is a librarian in the Washington school district. During free time, I may be found playing basketball in the driveway with my son, Devin. He's also keeping me busy with school, Little League, and playing in chess tournaments around the Valley.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: Doug Oldham gospel concert in the 1970s at the old East High School in Phoenix.

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Northern Hills Community Church in Phoenix. We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.

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