(PHOENIX – February 2, 2021) — New data is shining light on the positive outcomes of COVID-19 patients who have received extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) treatment at Norton Thoracic Institute at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix. St. Joseph’s reporting shows that discharge rates of the hospital’s COVID-19 patients who have required ECMO treatment exceed the worldwide average. St. Joseph’s hospital discharge rates for these patients is reported at 71 percent compared to data from the Extracorporeal Live Support Organization which shows a worldwide average discharge rate of 51 percent.
ECMO is essentially an artificial lung that can be used to help support a patient while their lungs recover. While it is not always a treatment option, it can help qualifying patients recover from severe COVID pneumonia. St Joseph’s is one of the highest volume ECMO programs in the state.
“At St. Joseph’s Norton Thoracic Institute, we have cared for more than two dozen COVID-19 patients on ECMO with a high survival rate,” says Dr. Ross Bremner, thoracic surgeon and director of Norton. “I’m incredibly proud and grateful for the exceptional care and compassion that has been provided to our patients by our outstanding ECMO team. Success requires careful selection and continued commitment and dedication of all team members as the recovery process using this technology usually takes weeks if not months. A special shout out to Dr. Schaheen and Dr. Padiyar for spearheading our efforts. They have been tireless in their efforts.”
Survivors, including 39-year-old Valley man Ryan Parker, credit St. Joseph’s expertise for their tremendous recovery. Diagnosed with COVID-19 last July, Parker spent nearly three months on ECMO, and was released from the hospital in November after more than 4 months.
While doctors anticipated a relatively speedy recovery for the young and otherwise healthy father-of-two, Parker’s health unexpectedly began to spiral as sometimes happens with COVID-19 even in young people. He says the quick action and expertise of the medical teams at Dignity Health Chandler Regional Medical Center and Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center are responsible for his miraculous recovery from the devastating virus-caused disease.
“When I arrived at the Emergency Room at Chandler Regional, my oxygen level was at just 63 percent,” recalls Parker, who has always been active and done his best to stay healthy. “The team and my thoracic surgeon, Dr. Patel, hoped I would only be in the hospital for a week or two. But then out of nowhere, I took a turn for the worse.”
The COVID-19 ICU team and Chirag Patel, MD, thoracic surgeon at Chandler Regional and St. Joseph’s Norton Thoracic Institute, intubated Parker and began working on a transfer to St. Joseph’s where Parker underwent a number of procedures before ultimately being placed on ECMO.
“Amazingly, Ryan was on ECMO for 84 days and hospitalized for a total of 134 days. We are grateful that his lungs recovered so well – a tribute to his age and good health before COVID, and to the dedication of the whole team,” says Dr. Patel.
Home to one of the nation’s top lung transplant programs, Norton Thoracic Institute at St. Joseph’s has had extensive experience with ECMO prior to the pandemic using it both as a bridge to recovery and as a tool to strengthen patients before receiving a lung transplant.
Continuing his recovery at home, Parker is expected to return to his medical device sales career in a few months and looks forward to returning as the coach for his sons’ soccer teams.
“I am so thankful to be alive. This whole ordeal has been incredibly stressful for my wife and our family,” says Parker. “Thanks to the teams at Norton and Dignity Health was able to celebrate Thanksgiving, my birthday, Christmas and New Year’s with my family. We have a bright future to look forward to again.”