Donor-funded technology brings lifeline to community

Posted: Apr 05, 2023

ECMO bringing a higher level of care to our community

Ascension Sacred Heart is introducing a highly advanced specialty service called ECMO, which provides life-saving support for infants, children, and adults with a critical heart or lung condition. The essential equipment for this program was funded by Ascension Sacred Heart Foundation. Carrie Garrison, M.D., a pediatric critical care physician at the Studer Family Children’s Hospital, will serve as pediatric medical director of the new service line.

 ECMO stands for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. It works like a heart-lung bypass machine in infants, children, and adults. ECMO helps stabilize a patient’s lungs and/or heart while an underlying disease or issue is managed. The ECMO system uses a pump to remove blood from the patient, adds oxygen and removes carbon dioxide, and then re-circulates the oxygen-rich blood back into the patient. As a result of this process, the body’s heart and lungs are allowed to rest, thus buying needed time for the patient’s condition to improve.

For the first time, this treatment is now available to infants and children in our community. Previously, families had to travel hours with an extremely ill child to a location where pediatric ECMO was available. Now, young patients of all ages in our region have access to this life-saving treatment as soon as it is needed. And families will not have to be displaced from their loved ones and community support system.

ECMO is a sophisticated life-support technology that requires significant skill and resources. The ECMO team is an expansive, specially trained team of ECMO Specialists (licensed respiratory therapists and registered nurses), perfusionists, pharmacists, laboratory and blood bank technicians, dieticians, physical therapists, and a team of nurses and physicians.

Dr. Garrison, whose interest in ECMO dates back to her residency training, has been determined to bring this service to Ascension Sacred Heart.  “Its complex physiology and how it supports the sickest of the sick patients has always been an area I feel passionate about, " says Dr. Garrison. Knowing that ECMO will offer a chance for survival to the tiniest of her patients, and having it readily available, provides her comfort and ease of mind. She believes the new service brings an even higher level of care to our community and addresses a real need.”

 Access to this life-saving technology would not be possible without philanthropic support. “We are appreciative of our donors for their support,” says Dr. Garrison. “Because of their support, we are able to provide this added lifeline to our community, keeping our patients and families close to home.”

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