Heart Failure Patients Gain New Lease on Life with Cutting-Edge Equipment
In June 2014, first time mother Kela Robinson should have been enjoying all the
beautiful moments afforded to new moms enjoying irreplaceable moments with
her newborn son, Thomas. But she couldn’t – she could hardly breathe.
Robinson, 21, began experiencing chest pains shortly after Thomas’ birth, and she
fatigued so easily she was unable to hold her newborn baby.
Doctors soon discovered her heart was working at just 10 percent capacity. Her
condition continued to worsen, despite the implantation of a defibrillator. She
developed pneumonia and coughed up blood. Her heart and lungs were shutting
down and Robinson’s life was in immediate danger.
A newly created specialized life support program and equipment called ECMO
(extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) saved the Oklahoma City resident’s life.
INTEGRIS became the first hospital in Oklahoma to establish an ECMO program
for adults facing imminent death caused by heart or respiratory failure. Robinson was
the first patient to benefit from the INTEGRIS program.
“I had no idea what ECMO was, but I know it saved my life,” Robinson said.
ECMO is at the forefront of mechanical support technology. It consists of a special
external machine that pumps blood from the patient, oxygenates it, then pumps it back
in. Essentially, the machine acts as the body’s heart and lungs and provides total support
to allow those vital organs to rest and recover. The machine does all the work until the
heart and lungs can heal themselves to once again begin working on their own.
“Quite simply, the ECMO treatment can often mean their last chance at life
itself,” says Holly Wright, a transplant nurse at INTEGRIS Advance Cardiac
The story of ECMO and INTEGRIS began in the fall of 2014 when INTEGRIS recruited
Aly El Banayosy, M.D., and Michael Koerner, M.D., both of whom are world renowned
cardiovascular critical careand ECMO specialists, from Pennsylvania to Oklahoma to
launch the state’s first and only ECMO program for adults. In the year since the program’s
inception at INTEGRIS, ECMO therapy has been used on desperately sick people
suffering from the flu, pneumonia, chest trauma, heart attacks, heart transplants and
more, primarily in the Oklahoma City metro area.
Banayosy and his team dreamed of being able to offer this lifesaving therapy across the
state and the surrounding region, too. Howeverthe ECMO machine’s substantial bulk,
as well as the expert clinical rescue team required to use the machine and implement the
therapy, made this dream seem impossible. As Karl Nelson, RN, M.B.A., who is
administrative director of the INTEGRIS Advanced Cardiac Care program, puts it, “It’s
not like we could just hop in our Toyota, throw the ECMO machine in the back, and
go save these people.”
Donors contributed more than $127,000 during the evening's
Passion Challenge. Those funds were earmarked for the purchase of a
transport vehicle and to furnish it with the newest generation of portable
ECMO technology. Now the INTEGRIS team can travel in this fully equipped
mobile rescue vehicle to the very sick in Oklahoma, in even the most rural settings.
In addition to the mobile ECMO vehicle, funds from the INTERIS Gala allowed for the purchase of five more ECMO machines for INTEGRIS hospitals ensuring communities, across the state, have access to this "last resort" lifesaving technique.
As the only health care system in Oklahoma to offer such a comprehensive adult ECMO program that features this high level of acute care, Banayosy and the ECMO team are committed to building a network so that all physicians and hospitals in the region know this advanced therapy is now accessible to their critically ill patients, regardless of the hospitals affiliation.
The transport vehicle and the ECMO machines that were purchased from the funds raised at the Gala will buy more time for some of the sickest people throughout Oklahoma. These people will feel the direct impact of the donations. The ECMO therapy they can now access will extend their lives and give them a fighting chance for tomorrow.
A fighting change is all Kela Robinson needed.
Robinson was on ECMO for seven days. Once her heart and lungs were strong enough to tolerate the medications she needed to stabilize her condition, she was removed from the therapy. She then received a left ventricular assist device, known as a heart pump, and continues to live her life with her now one-year-old son.
Posted on Thu, August 4, 2016
by Heather Haglund filed under