ST. LOUIS – David “Davey” Bauer can thank his lucky stars for the surgeons at Chicago’s Northwestern Medicine and a pair of breast implants.

When he was 21, Bauer began smoking cigarettes but later turned to vaping because he believed it was a better alternative.

In April, Bauer began having shortness of breath and caught the flu, and his health deteriorated rapidly.

Bauer’s medical team in St. Louis contacted Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

“We knew the current condition,” Dr. Rade Tomic, a pulmonologist at Northwestern Medicine Canning Thoracic Institute, said. “In order to get him listed, we have to resolve the infection. The only way to resolve the infection is to take the lungs out.”

It was determined Bauer would need a double lung transplant. In May, doctors created an artificial lung to keep him alive. But then, a breakthrough treatment was suggested involving breast implants.

“One of the important things was to keep his heart supported. That was done using double-D breast implants,” Dr. Ankit Bharat, chief of thoracic surgery and director of the Canning Thoracic Institute, said. “So, with that, we could put him in a position of stability and get him to the ICU. What we found was very rapidly, his body started to clear the infection. He improved rapidly, and then we were able to list him. And within 24 hours, we got an organ offer, and on May 28, we took him back to the operating room and implanted new lungs.”

Bauer admits to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day until 2014, when he switched to vaping.

“I thought it’d be a safer alternative,” he said. “In hindsight, I should have quit sooner.”

The incredible surgery using implants kept blood flowing to his heart and kept his brain and organs functioning correctly.

“We want to thank our plastic surgeons on giving us a rapid-fire crash course on breast implants,” Bharat said. “We felt like with the lungs taken out, we needed something to support his heart, and the double-D breast implants were the best fit and, frankly, the largest we could get at the time.”

On Wednesday, Bauer and his girlfriend received gifts from the medical team as the first-ever recipient of a most unusual lifesaving procedure, a t-shirt bearing his new nickname: DD Davey.

“Oh, it’s incredible,” Bauer said. “I got a second chance at life.”