Hillcrest Medical Rolls Out Mobile Unit To Transfer Heart, Lung Patients

Tuesday, January 25th 2022, 4:51 pm

TULSA, Oklahoma -

Severe lung and heart failure patients are getting a second chance at surviving thanks to a mobile ECMO program with the Oklahoma Heart Institute.

Doctors told Tyler Whitmire he would have died within 24 hours if it were not for the ECMO transfer program.

“They took a huge chance. Came down here and got me. I mean 20 percent. That’s an 80 percent chance that I’m going to die. So they took a gamble on me to save me and that’s the only reason I’m still here is them," said Whitmire.

He ended up in the hospital with COVID-19 in Oklahoma City in September 2020 and was getting worse after a week of treatment. Doctors gave him a 20 percent chance to live and knew they had to find an ECMO machine.

“They searched from Houston up into Kansas state and the only ECMO bed they found in that region was in Tulsa," said Whitmire.

The ECMO machine acts as an artificial heart of the lung for the patient. The Oklahoma Heart Institute helps transfer about four patients every week in our region.

“It’s the sickest of the sickest patients where what you’re taking with ECMO is somebody who you feel like has a 10 percent chance of survival and moving it up to 50 or 60 percent. So out of these 100 patients, that’s a lot of people you’ve given a second chance to," said Dr. Adam Betz.

Dr. Betz is the Medical Director of ECMO for Oklahoma Heart Institute. He said the program is one of the largest in the country and they just reached a milestone of transferring 100 patients since the program began in 2018.

"I think it’s helped us be a much bigger service to our city and kind of the surrounding community in being able to reach this patient population who would otherwise die from their severity," said Dr. Betz.