ECMO Therapy Saves Mother

As seen on THV 11

Wendy Chapman of Lonoke is not one for the spotlight. She reluctantly agreed to tell her story so that more peoples' lives might be saved.

She was on death's door after she had attended an ER for the flu. Still in pain, the next morning she went to the CHI St. Vincent Infirmary emergency room. "I was screamin' with my back hurtin', my eyes rollin' in the back of my head," Chapman said.

Her medical state changed so fast that her life was in danger, according to Dr. Thurston Bauer, a cardiothoracic surgeon at CHI St. Vincent Infirmary in Little Rock.

"The progression of the problem that you had in your lungs was incredibly fast," Dr. Bauer said to Chapman.

Dr. Bauer was brought in because the ER doctors were fighting a losing battle with what they thought was the flu. Wendy was going into acute respiratory failure.

"She was dying on the way to the operating room," Dr. Bauer said.

Immediately, she was hooked up to an ECMO machine. "More or less taking over the work of the patient's lungs," Dr. Bauer said. Tubes are inserted and blood leaves the patient's body. It then circulates through the machine and back into the patient at seven liters per minute.

The therapy worked, saving Chapman's life just in time. "I really believe that even ten minutes longer might have been too long," Dr. Bauer said. Chapman knows that she owes her life to the ECMO machine. "If it wasn't for that machine, I probably wouldn't be here," Chapman said.

Once she realized what had happened, the mother of two was immediately thankful. "I was glad I was still alive to be their mom," Chapman said.

The feeling he gets from stories like this is why Dr. Bauer goes to work each day, he said. It is important for people to hear these stories he said. "I would hate to think that somebody died because they didn't know that we could do this," Dr. Bauer said.

Chapman has been given a clean bill of health. Doctors believe she had a virus that was defeated because the ECMO machine gave her lungs time to heal.

Learn more about Dr. Thurston Bauer, the CHI St. Vincent Cardiovascular Clinic or CHI St. Vincent Infirmary.