‘On the brink of death’: York Hospital’s very 1st COVID-19 patient saved by ECMO treatment

April 20, 2020 / Mike Argento, York Daily Record

The patient showed up at York Hospital showing symptoms of COVID-19 on March 18, believed to be the first confirmed case of the virus at the hospital. 

The virus was fairly advanced — and aggressive. The patient, who was not identified, was in extreme distress, the virus attacking his lungs, robbing his body of oxygen. He was, according to one of the health-care professionals who treated him, “pretty much as sick as you can get.” 

He was placed on a ventilator almost immediately — not a good sign. Public health physicians have reported that some 80 percent of the COVID patients who get placed on a ventilator don’t come off.  

As the patient’s health deteriorated, it appeared he wouldn’t make it. 

He was, according to respiratory therapist Joshua Fine, on the brink of death. 

Fine’s team was called in. He coordinates what’s call the ECMO program at York Hospital. ECMO – which stands for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation – is a rare therapy described as “a last-ditch effort” to save a person’s life. The machine acts like an artificial lung, oxygenating the patient’s blood when his or her lungs fail to do so. 


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Chris J. Stewart

Chris currently serves as Chief Executive Officer of Surgio Health as well as COO at Ortho Spine Partners. Chris has close to 20 years of healthcare management experience with an infinity to improve healthcare delivery through the development and implementation of innovative solutions that solve real problems that result in improved efficiencies, reduction of unnecessary financial & clinical variation, and help drive better patient outcomes. Previously, Chris was assistant vice president and business unit leader for HPG/HCA. He has presented at numerous healthcare forums on topics that include disruptive innovation, physician engagement, shifting reimbursement models, cost per clinical episode and the future of supply chain delivery.

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