TotalHEART Team Saves Jennie from Severe Lung Failure

MHSPatientTestimonialImageMCVIJennie After several doctors’ visits and trips to the emergency room at Memorial Hospital West, Jennie was initially diagnosed with vasculitis and what the doctors thought was pneumonia because she had been coughing up blood clots. This scare led to her being admitted to the Intensive Care Unit because she had gone into respiratory distress, which required the use of a bronchoscope to remove the blood out of her lungs.

While undergoing a chest X-ray a few days later, Jennie bled into her ventilation tubes. She was diagnosed with Wegener’s/GPA vasculitis with an active leukocytoclastic rash, leading to acute respiratory distress syndrome and diffuse alveolar hemorrhage. To her family’s dismay, her chances of survival were not good.

Enrique Gongora, MD, Medical Director of Memorial Cardiac and Vascular Institute’s Adult Cardiac Surgical Transplant Program, recommended that she be transported to Memorial Regional Hospital and placed on an extracorporeal membrane oxygen (ECMO) machine. Normally reserved for patients with a predicted mortality of greater than 80 percent, ECMO is an innovative life-support intervention that acts as an artificial lung (or heart) for people with acute respiratory failure.

“ECMO temporarily takes over the function of the lungs until they regenerate, allowing the patient to breathe on their own once they recover. It increases the likelihood of surviving to 50-60 percent and can mean the difference between life and death,” said Dr. Gongora.

As an integrated healthcare system, Memorial Healthcare System is uniquely positioned to allow our dedicated team of healthcare providers to not only work within each of our six hospitals, but across our facilities as well. After performing the necessary treatment to stabilize Jennie, our Critical Transport team brought her to Memorial Regional Hospital, where she awoke nine days later.

Thanks to the TotalHEART team, Jennie got the right therapy, at the right place, at the right time and was able to recover and continue living a normal life.

“I have never come across someone who cares about patients the way Dr. Gongora cared for me,” Jennie said. “My new medical family is made up of people I will never forget. I have air in my lungs, a strong beat in my heart, and, in the words of my daughters, ‘sunshine in my pocket.’”