One Lung not seen as detriment to
New pope had one lung removed while still
youngPope Francis, the new pope, only has one lung. One of his
lungs was removed at the age of 20 on account of illness. This condition is not
believed to hinder any of his duties of the church, medical authorities believe,
as long as he takes steps from contracting pneumonia.
The new pope hasn't limited his exposure to the
infirm. Before Easter in 1999, the future Pope Francis washed the feet of 12
AIDS patients in a local hospital.LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online):
Blair Marshall, chief of thoracic surgery at MedStar Georgetown University
Hospital in Washington says that the only threat the 76-year-old pontiff might
face is from pneumonia.
The amount of lung function at birth well exceeds
what the average person needs, Marshall says. Recent scientific reports suggest
the lung is able to partially regenerate when it's damaged at an early age.
Marshall says that the new pope's lung issue shouldn't restrict his travel
schedule or his ability to perform the high- stress role of leading the
"He's had several decades to adjust to this and his other lung
has taken over," Marshall said in a telephone interview. "He's been functioning
well for decades and should have no limitations. The only risk would be if he
Lung infections today are almost never treated with
surgery. In the mid-1950s, however, doctors didn't have widespread access to
antibiotics that are available now, and thus removing the lung was often the
There has been no specific reason given for the pope's
partial lung removal. The young Jorge Mario Bergoglio may have had tuberculosis
or necrotizing pneumonia, where a bacterium destroys the lung tissue, Marshall
In some cases, a chronic illness may trigger so much inflammation
that antibiotics traveling through the bloodstream can't reach the site of the
A pulmonologist and co-director of the Cleveland Clinic Asthma
Center in Ohio Sumita Khatri says that the damaged portion may be removed to
stop the disease from spreading.
"This must have been a very difficult
infection and he wasn't responding to treatment," she said in a telephone
interview. "He was young and I expect rather healthy. It seems like by removing
this infection, anything that could have become a chronic problem may very well
have been cured and poses no risk to him now."
The fact that only part of
a lung was taken out, rather than the entire organ as earlier reports suggested,
is even more reassuring, Khatri said.
Losing just a portion of one lung
shouldn't carry any restrictions. "A whole lot of people get a portion of their
lung removed and do just fine," she said. "His experience for the past 50 years
more than tells us that he has lung enough for the job."
The new pope
hasn't limited his exposure to the infirm. Before Easter in 1999, Bergoglio
washed the feet of 12 AIDS patients in a local hospital. The next year he washed
the feet of 12 prison inmates. He has done the same thing every year since, with
members of different social groupings.