FORT WAYNE – When Alejandro Zacavelazques experienced shortness of breath and weakness, he sought care at Kosciusko Community Hospital’s Emergency Department, where he tested positive for COVID-19.
Zacavelazques’ oxygen level was so low that he required a breathing tube and was transferred to Lutheran Hospital’s COVID ICU. His lung condition worsened and the breathing tube and ventilator were no longer sufficient to help him.
The intensive care physicians called in the Cardiothoracic Surgery team, who placed Zacavelazques on VV ECMO (Veno-Venous Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation), a mechanical assistance device that provides prolonged lung support.
Once Zacavelazques was COVID negative, he was transferred to Lutheran Hospital’s Cardiovascular ICU. In this environment, he was able to walk with the VV ECMO machine with the assistance of nurses and physical therapists. After being supported on VV ECMO for two months, Zacavelazques was eventually weaned off the ventilator and transferred to a rehab facility. As time passed, he required less oxygen and showed progress.
“Alejandro sought help immediately and was able to get treatment early,” said Hannah Copeland, MD, FACS, FACC, medical director, Heart Transplant at Lutheran Hospital.“VV ECMO is a rescue therapy for lung failure that has helped patients with severe pneumonia, flu, asthma and now COVID. Early diagnosis and treatment is essential to survival.”
Due to the lifesaving efforts of the ECMO team, Cardiothoracic Surgery, ICU doctors, nurses, physical therapists, and many other staff, Zacavelazques’ condition was stabilized and organ function maintained.
“VV ECMO is a lifesaving option for severely ill COVID patients and can potentially help many, like Alejandro, survive severe acute respiratory distress illnesses and infections,” concludes Copeland.