From the Blogposts » inbox

Bionic Lungs: Opportunity of a Lifetime

For those of you who don’t notice or subscribe to the normal “holiday” of April Fool’s Day, that’s when this was written and what it was written for. It is so far over the top, if you’re not laughing your head off, there is something wrong and you should go get it checked out. Enjoy!

Bionic LungsThursday ended with a huge bang with a call from my CF center to come in at 4am for an opportunity to be one of the first CF patients to receive bionic lungs! It’s been something I’ve thought about since the old movie “The Six Million Dollar Man” reruns back in the 80s. I’ve gone back and forth between wanting bionic lungs and lungs harvested from some sort of genetic clone of myself (like in Steven Cook’s “Chromosome 6“), only with healthy lungs, from something like a fast-growing monkey or pig that would eliminate the need for anti-rejection drugs. That’s what we’re all concerned about one way or another with a lung transplant anyway: rejection of the donor tissue or getting sick from a suppressed immune system.

They’ve been working on materials to coat implants of this size to avoid the body from attacking it as a foreign object and have finally figured it out. It’s coated with a polymer that mimics normal organ fascia. They discovered that fascia isn’t recognized by the immune system, only actual organs, so once encased in this polymer, it remains invisible to the immune system and it’s only connected to the body with proven materials used in stent and defibrillator surgeries.

The plan is to remove my lungs only after they test the system outside of my body, just in case there is an issue. That’s the beauty of this technique because they can hook it up with extra tubing for my circulatory system and pump room air into them, all from a table next to me, and only remove my lungs after everything checks out.

The super-cool thing is that the bionic lungs are 1/5 the size of natural lungs, so they are going to pack my body with a combination of bio-friendly styrofoam and expanding foam insulation to hold everything, including the lungs, in place, all triple-coated with the fascia polymer. They have the option to leave the lungs outside the body, too, but that leaves me open to the possibility of someone knocking my cardiac tubing loose and bleeding out. Not a good way to go!

I asked in previous discussions with the team about the noise level, and they said it’s about the same as an Auto-PAP machine – just white noise. I guess I’ll finally get my life-long dream to sound like Darth Vader! “Luke! I am your father!” Future upgrades will likely bring the noise down to nothing, as all technological improvements go. They say replacing it every year isn’t going to be a big deal and that it should generally hold to Moore’s Law ofย  technology advancement that states that technology (transistor density in his case) doubles every 18 months. That being the case, I will just be happy if insurance pays for a new set every 2-5 years.

The last thing of interest is how they are powered. They eventually came to the conclusion that batteries were just not going to work without having an easily-accessible way to plug in to an external power source. So… they finally made a good use of the human, adult bellybutton! They’ll run a socket down to my bellybutton and fasten a regular reverse male adapter like what you have with a laptop cord. It actually works with Apple MacBook Pro cords, so I’m never more than an hour from being able to get a new one by driving to our nearest Apple Store! How convenient can you get?

Anyway, I have to get up in 2 hours to head to the hospital for this landmark surgery. I’m not even sure I should be blogging about it, but they didn’t make me sign an NDA, but they did want me to keep it a secret while it was in development and until I was finally selected to be one of the first. They will be simultaneously performing it at 7 Mayo clinics and some of the top university hospitals as a contest to see who can be done first.

This is too good to be true!!


  1. Amy Wynn says

    You had my heart beating so hard, I’m thinking, “there’s no way! I would have heard something about this!”. I cussed you when I came to my senses

  2. Nice! You almost got me going. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Silly Fibro – I hope you realize that I live on the West coast… and when you posted this.. and when i READ this… that it’s not technically April Fools day. ๐Ÿ™‚ I thoroughly enjoy your creativity – kind of reminds me of another “unknown” fibro that I know very well…

  4. Nice.

    What kind of interface for monitoring/updating – USB or Firewire? Where will that port be installed…or do I really want to know that?

    Will you be able to adjust performance levels on the fly? Say you were visiting family in Colorado Springs, and decide to join them for a run up Pike’s Peak – you’d need to crank the exchange rate up a bit…

    Oh, and good job on the reveal, too!

    • The reveal was my favorite part, too, followed closely by the charging technique.

      I spent way too much time thinking about how to end it – at least 7 minutes.

  5. um…happy April Fool’s Day? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. Well played, sir.

  7. Anonymous says

    Plug in through the belly button, eh? I would have to pass no matter what the reason. I despise belly buttons.