Friday, July 13, 2012

Cardiac ECMO survivors celebrate each other and MGH staff


ECMO EMBRACE: Survivor Jeff Maynard, at left, hugs Baker


It’s not every day you get a second lease on life. But 17 MGH patients who experienced serious cardiac events received that second chance thanks in part to extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), a technique that oxygenates and removes carbon dioxide from the blood outside a patient’s body, allowing his or her damaged heart and lungs time to recover. On June 28, nine of these patients came together with MGH Cardiac Surgery clinicians for a reunion at the Paul S. Russell, MD Museum of Medical History and Innovation.

During the event, the survivors shared their stories with one another and thanked their MGH caregivers. Keith Lordan, a 58-year-old from Melrose who was kept alive on ECMO for eight days, said he was grateful for the chance to meet others like him. “We have a bond,” he said. 

ECMO typically is used for newborns who lack fully functioning respiratory systems, but adult cardiac patients – including patients with pulmonary embolisms – now are candidates for this life-saving treatment. MGH Cardiac Surgery began tracking the number of adult cardiac patients treated with ECMO in 2010, and in only two years, the number is at more than 45. The MGH currently is the only medical center in New England that accepts referrals from other hospitals for long-term ECMO care. Joshua Baker, MD, a surgeon in the MGH Heart Center who leads the ECMO program for cardiac patients, spoke at the reunion. He said the program is growing because of the multidisciplinary care provided by surgeons, nurses, respiratory specialists and perfusionists as well as the hard work of the SHOCK team, which determines whether a patient is likely to benefit from ECMO.

“We’re one of the few sites managing long-term ECMO care, and that’s because our skilled staff enables us to provide the 24/7 care these patients need,” said Baker.

Among the other stories shared was that of 24-year-old survivor Ryan Naismith, an operations associate in MGH Psychiatry. Naismith went into cardiac arrest in September 2011 and received therapeutic hypothermia treatment at a local hospital before being transferred to the MGH, where Baker and the SHOCK team made the crucial decision to put him on ECMO. ECMO bought time for Naismith to recover, and a few days later a left ventricular device (LVAD) was implanted to help manage his heart failure. Naismith has been placed on a heart transplant waiting list, is doing well and isn’t letting the LVAD slow him down at his job at the hospital.

To view more photos from the event, visit

Read more articles from the 07/13/12 Hotline issue.

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