The “Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO), a life-saving device is very similar to a heart-lung bypass machine used for open-heart surgery. It mimics the natural function of the heart and lungs, allowing an infant or child to rest while natural healing of the affected organ takes place. It is commonly used for newborns and children suffering from respiratory and/or cardiac failure as a result of birth defects, trauma, or severe infection.
In December 2011, the ECMO program transferred to the San Antonio Military Medical Center (SAMMC) due to the implementation of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure rules. “SAMMC is the only DOD facility that provides this type of medical procedure for infants plus the 59th Medical Wing provides world-wide air support to transport patients from and to the medical center.
To see the results in action, one patient so far has been treated at SAMMC with the ECMO machine. Brianna was born on January 13th in a Honduras hospital. Her mother is Honduran and her father is active duty stationed in Ft. Lewis Washington. She was born with undiagnosed ruptured abdominal wall defect.
She had some surgical repairs in Honduras but remained very ill and had developed a bloodstream infection. She was scheduled to be transferred from Honduras to Seattle Children’s Hospital, but en route to Seattle, she developed a collapsed lung and blood collected between the chest wall and the lungs. Immediately, the flight was diverted to SAMMC.
As Air Force (Dr.) Lt. Col. Michael Shoemaker, SAMMC neonatologist and ECMO Director explained “Without the use of the ECMO machine, Brianna had no chance of survival. So in February, she was placed on the ECMO machine and removed from the machine one week later, and by March 21st, her health had improved. At that time, she was transferred to Madigan Army Medical Center and with surgery performed on her bowel, she is doing very well.”