June 29, 2018

Cardiac Unit Offering ‘Last Chance at Life’ Expands at Adventist Hospital

Chris Rodriguez was working as a DJ when his lungs failed. Doctors initially gave the 28-year-old no hope of recovery. 

But that changed when he came to a specialized unit at Florida Hospital that offers life support via the Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) machine, which does what the lungs and heart cannot by pumping a patient’s blood outside their body, oxygenating it, and then filtering it back into the body.

“When someone’s heart or lungs fail, ECMO becomes their last chance at life,”

Florida Hospital is the only provider in the central region of the US State of Florida to treat adults with ECMO. The organization is expanding its specialized cardiac unit so up to 1,000 more people with advanced heart and lung problems can be treatedeach year.

Many of those patients will turn to ECMO.

“When someone’s heart or lungs fail, ECMO becomes their last chance at life,” said Dr. Scott Silvestry, surgical director of thoracic transplant at Florida Hospital. “There’s a growing need for this life-saving treatment, and that’s why this expansion is so important. We are privileged to provide this specialized care to our community and state.”

ECMO machines — and the team of nurses and physicians specially trained to operate the devices — are housed within the cardiovascular intensive care unit at Florida Hospital Orlando. 

Because of the generous support of donors, Florida Hospital expanded this unit and created a new Advanced Cardiac Surgical Unit, which features eight new rooms. 

The new unit — with rooms that are 40 percent larger than the previous ones — makes it easier for the clinical team to accommodate the large ECMO equipment, and to provide a better experience for patients and their families during their hospital stay. The expansion also created a private family waiting room and additional workspacesfor staff and physicians.

Patients were slated to begin using the new unit in the last week of June 2018.

In 2017, the Advanced Cardiac Surgical Unit team cared for hundreds of critically ill patients, including 95 on ECMO, and dozens who received heart or lung transplants.

One of those patients was Rodriguez, who is recovering from a lung transplant. 

“What the nurses and physicians do in this unit is amazing,” said Rodriguez. “There’s no way I can thank them enough for the way they cared for me and my family.”