By Tony Aiello

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – It’s a new milestone in transplant surgery.

A Bronx woman is the first patient in the world to successfully receive a new windpipe.

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As CBS2’s Tony Aiello reports, dancing with her grandkids is a dream come true for 56-year-old Sonia Sein, who a year ago wondered how much longer she had to live.

“It’s like, ‘oh my God, is this really, really happening?'” she said.

Mount Sinai says Sein is the first in the world to receive a transplanted trachea, or windpipe. It replaces hers, which was damaged in 2016 when she was intubated following a severe asthma attack.

“When they put that tube in, she had the tube in for quite some time and it damaged the tracheal airway,” said Dr. Eric Genden, chief of head and neck surgery at Mount Sinai.

The 18-hour surgery on Jan. 13 involved a team of 50. If it had failed, Sein would likely have died.

“You realize this has to work because if it doesn’t work, there’s really no place to go moving forward,” Genden said.

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The painstaking connection of blood vessels to the donor organ was key to making the transplant work.

“So when we saw the organ come to life and we saw the blood supply was intact, we knew we had jumped the first hurdle,” Genden said.

It’s a dramatic transplant advancement, and timely. COVID intubations are leaving hundreds of patients with damaged windpipes.

“While the number of patients who need this operation today is probably not large, they’re out there,” said Dr. Albert Merati of University of Washington Medicine.

Doctors say Sein is showing no signs of rejecting the new windpipe, and soon she’ll be able to speak normally after a final surgery to close the remaining small hole in her neck.

“You all gave me a chance to live again. You all gave me a chance to be with my family one more time, and I really appreciate it,” Sein said.

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It’s a lifesaving medical milestone.

Tony Aiello