Bronx woman receives trachea transplant after windpipe damage


THE BRONX (NEWS10/AP/FOX) – A New York woman’s rare transplant could eventually help lots of COVID-19 patients dealing with breathing issues.

Sonia Sein, 56, spent six years trying to catch her breath after her windpipe was severely damaged by a breathing tube in 2014.

The 18-hour procedure, one that is considered a last resort for treatment, took place on January 13. It was led by surgeon-scientist Eric M. Genden, MD, MHCA, FACS, Isidore Friesner Professor and Chair of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery for Mount Sinai Health System. The complex surgery involved a team of more than 50 specialists including surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, and residents.

Despite the risks and possible complications, Sonia says she is doing well.

“Now, I feel good because now I can sit with my grandkids, we can play,” says Sein. “I can see my family. But, it’s been great that I’ve been able to breathe.”

Dr. Albert Merati at the University of Washington Medicine, a specialist in laryngology and otolaryngology, says the need for this kind of high-risk procedure is more common than people think. 

“While the number of patients who need this operation today is probably not large, they’re out there,” said Merati. “And the patients who we wouldn’t think of for tracheal transplantation today are probably patients we’ll consider for this intervention in the future.”

Experts say it’s too soon to deem Sein’s transplant a total success, but doctors say the procedure could help others with tracheal birth defects, untreatable airway diseases, or extensive damage from ventilators.

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