AU Health’s new machine is aiding in COVID-19 pandemic

Published: Sep. 3, 2020 at 6:43 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - As COVID-19 started to spread, a new program was starting up at AU Health. It came at the perfect time to save lives.

It’s called an ECMO machine, and what it stands for is hard to pronounce. But what matters is it’s giving people a second chance.

“It does provide you an opportunity to improve the survival of patients,” Dr. Vijay Patel, a cardiothoracic surgeon, said.

Patel has been involved since they started developing the adult ECMO program a year ago.

“Obviously, we did not have any prediction of what was coming,” Patel said. “But this allows us to help COVID patients who may benefit from this.”

Several COVID patients already have. The ECMO is a last-ditch effort to give the patient rest.

“Their lungs just get so sick that the ventilator isn’t able to support them as much as they need,” ECMO specialist Amy Cato said.

The machine doesn’t run itself. Some specialists may sit bedside for 12 hours at a time in full PPE. After all, it can keep your heart and lungs alive at the same time.

So AU added more ECMO units to their COVID unit because it helps save the lungs from more injury.

“To rest the lungs and allow the lungs to recover, and hopefully see them going home in a safe way,” Patel said.

In the end, it’s a machine and really smart minds giving people a chance at another breath.

AU Health officials say they plan to expand the program. They just hope that it’s not because of COVID spiking again.

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