Video: Oregon's only mobile ECMO team saves a young life: A newlywed's story
When a physician makes a call for Legacy Emanuel Medical Center's mobile ECMO team, the patient is on the verge of dying. Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation, or ECMO, is a sophisticated procedure.
Like the heart-lung bypass machine used in cardiac surgery, it takes over the oxygenation and heart function in patients with serious lung disease, cardiac disease or trauma.
Legacy Emanuel's six-person mobile ECMO team, complete with physicians, nurses and other staff, is ready to be dispatched by ambulance or air to pick up patients in the Pacific Northwest, even as far away as Alaska or Montana. Last year, the team had a total of 34 ECMO patients; so far this year, it's up to 27 already.
Roya Quirk said her heart stopped four times while at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center’s emergency room. The doctor on duty knew she was in trouble and called for the medical center’s mobile critical care ECMO team to come to the ER. Usually the team is dispatched to a hospital to pick up a very ill patient. For the first time they were called to their own ER to save a dying patient who was too ill to be moved upstairs to the Neuro Trauma Intensive Care Unit.
Roya, a young, healthy marketing professional, credits a quick-thinking American Medical Response paramedic for saving her life. He made the decision to bring her to Legacy Emanuel's emergency room last February, where she arrived barely alive.
Roya, who married the love of her life Steven last year, noticed her ankle was swollen. “I do Cross-Fit workouts and thought I injured my ankle so I did what most of us do, I elevated my leg, packed on some ice and waited for the swelling to go down.” She and her husband decided to relax one evening (no workout that day) and settled in to watch the Grammy Awards and a movie before bedtime. “That’s what I thought,” said Roya. She collapsed and blacked out then came to, but had trouble breathing. Roya said her husband called a nurse friend who advised him to call 911 because by his description, she needed to get to a hospital fast.
When the paramedics arrived, Roya said her breathing was shallow. “Alex told my husband, 'We can’t take her to your plan hospital; you need to go to Emanuel,' which is near our home."
Paramedic Alex Spady knew the clock was ticking and she was in trouble. “When we arrived, we quickly realized that she was critically-sick and (understood) the importance of getting her to the right place at the right time, and with the right team of people,” says Spady. “In this case, this was Emanuel.”
Roya said her swollen ankle was actually a near-fatal blood clot, or deep vein thrombosis, that traveled up to her lungs and heart. Elevating her ankle was the wrong thing to do for this serious condition, which can form in the legs with very little symptoms.
She stayed on ECMO several days and in the hospital for nearly a month before she could go home. “I have three heroes: my husband for calling 911, Alex, who made the decision to go to Emanuel and of course, the doctors and staff who saved my life.” Roya is back at work, enjoying her new marriage and hopefully will be back working out soon.
For media inquiries: Vicki Guinn, Legacy Emanuel Public Relations, firstname.lastname@example.org, (503) 413-2939.
Photos courtesy of Roya Quirk. YouTube video: Vicki Guinn
Article contributors: KGW-TV