In addition to being the first New World pontiff from the Americas, the first to take the name of Francis, and the first Jesuit to lead the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis is also reportedly the first Pope to have only one lung.
As a teenager, the Pope, born Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Buenos Aires, Argentina, had one of his lungs removed presumably because of an infection, the Associated Press reported.
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"It was probably a pretty bad infection, and maybe even an abscess, that might have caused him to bleed," Dr. John Belperio, association professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California Los Angeles, tells Time.com. "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."
Pneumonia, fungus, and even tuberculosis can cause an infection, experts say.
However, Dr. Ronald Crystal, professor of medicine at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, begs to differ.
Crystal told Time that most bacterial infections wouldn’t result in serious damage to lung tissue
, especially not to the point that a lung would have to be removed.
Crystal suggested that the culprit could have been a strain like staphylococci, which is more destructive than a regular infection because it eats away at organs. In a case like that, doctors would be required to remove the lung to prevent it from spreading to healthy areas of the body.
Lastly, Crystal said a birth defect like a lung abnormality or an unusual blood vessel growth inside air sacs could have hampered Pope Francis' ability to breathe, forcing doctors to perform the major surgery.
Lacking a lung is not a threat to the pontiff's health, because one lung can perform properly without relying on a second one.
Crystal said Pope Francis could face are complications from influenza, Time.com reported, but as long as he gets vaccinated yearly, his health should not be a concern.
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