ECMO saves skeptical patient’s life

Filed under: Cardiovascular
Tags: cardiovasculargiving healscompassionate care

On January 23, 2015, Oscar Hernandez suffered a massive heart attack while he was getting a haircut. He was transported to Elkhart General Hospital and had triple bypass open heart surgery, but his heart failed again three days later.

There was nothing more Elkhart could do. The extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) circuit at Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital is a device that pumps oxygenated blood for patients suffering from life-threatening cardiovascular issues. The severity of his condition made Oscar a candidate, but Edith, his ex-wife and caregiver, wasn’t sure. A nurse convinced her to give ECMO a try.

“She grabbed my hand and said, ‘Trust me, he’s in the best hands. Let him go, and you’re not going to regret it’,” Edith said. 

Doctors from IU Health Methodist Hospital came to put Oscar on the mobile ECMO device and transported him back to Indianapolis. Edith promised her kids she would bring their father home, and went with Oscar. The hospital staff did their best to make her feel at home without her family.

“I told one of the nurses, ‘I’m sorry I ask so many questions. I just want to make sure I know what’s going on.’ She told me, ‘This is your family, you ask as many questions as you want’,” Edith said.

Dr. Marco Caccamo, one of Oscar’s treating cardiologists, knows the importance of ECMO to the IU Health Methodist Hospital Cardiology program, and doubts Oscar would have survived without the device.

“Mortality is so significant in the cardiac arrest patient population, but with ECMO we’re able to support those patients,” Caccamo said.

Oscar was on ECMO for 16 days during which he recovered and was walking again. Doctors then replaced the ECMO with a left ventricular assist device (LVAD), a machine that pumps blood to help his weakened heart ventricle. Now he is symptom-free at home, waiting on a heart transplant, and looking forward to having a normal life again.

“It’s amazing,” Edith said. “We are so thankful for Methodist Hospital.”

The Cardiovascular program at IU Health Methodist Hospital saves lives like Oscar’s every day thanks to outstanding clinicians and technologies like ECMO. Our donors are proud to contribute to these and other life-saving efforts.

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