First responders, UNM Hospital equip ambulance with new life-saving technology

14 januari 2020

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.— First responders in Albuquerque are equipped with new life-saving technology that will help patients who go into cardiac arrest.

Albuquerque is the first city in North American to use the extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine in an ambulance. The device takes over the functions of a patient’s heart or lungs if they’re not working on their own.

“It’s telling for the level of care that our EMS providers provide prehospital to be able to provide this to the citizens and patients of Albuquerque,” said EMS Chief Chris Ortiz.

UNMH Chief of Surgical Critical Care Dr. John Marinaro is the director of the adult ECMO program. He said the new technology will save the lives of people who have to travel long distances to get to the hospital.

“It’s incredibly important for those people outside this perimeter that the AFR folks and the EMS folks have decided is too far to get to University Hospital within that 35 minutes,” Dr. Marinaro said.

AFR and UNM Hospital were able to implement the new technology while on a budget by repurposing an old AFR ambulance and using a hand crank instead of opting for a standard piece of machinery that comes with a price tag of $120,000.

“My whole mantra is that, you know, we should be able to try to do everything as good but as cheap as we possibly can,” Dr. Marinaro said.

The machine works by taking blood out of a patient’s body, oxygenating it, then returning it to the patient. “The people who die are people whose brains are not coming back because they did not have enough oxygen for too long. By bringing this out to the patient we are able to shorten the amount of time it takes to get the person on heart lung bypass therefore giving oxygen to their brain,” Dr. Marinaro said.

A huge part of the program’s success is thanks to people knowing how to do CPR. First responders will only send this treatment if a bystander knows what happened and performs CPR until AFR and UNMH can get to the patient.

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