We have a new pope in 76-year old Argentina native Pope Francis (born Jorge Mario Bergoglio), who is also the first pope from South America, but also notably the first with one lung.
According to the Associated Press, the new Pope had one of his organs removed as a teenager, presumably after a bout with an infection. At that time, it’s possible that antibiotic treatments that are commonly used today to treat such infections were not as available, and to protect patients from further health problems doctors removed the lung as way to stop the infection from spreading.
Dr. John Belperio, association professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California Los Angeles, said: “It was probably a pretty bad infection, and maybe even an abscess, that might have caused him to bleed. If he were bleeding a lot in the lung, the only thing to do is to resect the lung, take it out, to stop the bleeding.”
Lung expert Dr. Zab Mosenifar from Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, said: “Without seeing and testing him, I would comfortably say he functions at 85 to 90 percent capacity of someone his age that has both lungs and hasn’t taken such good care of himself.”
The good thing is that he has lived a normal life with one lung for over 60 years, so it can’t be that bad to live with one lung. Fortunately for him, the lungs are a redundant system, and losing one lung doesn’t seriously compromise health. According to reports, the only concern Pope Francis faced, and will continue to face, is that he has less respiratory reserve than someone with two intact lungs.
Pope Francis is a child from a railroad immigrant Italian working family in Argentina who did not become a priest until he was 32.