Special delivery

Special delivery

UF Health Shands team transports ECMO patient using portable machine

By Sam Burroughs
Timothy Bantle, R.R.T., respiratory care supervisor, Cardiopulmonary Services along with Jeff Brown, ECMO Specialist photographed with the portable ECMO machine, known as the CARDIOHELP machine, will allow critically ill patients to be more easily transported to UF Health Shands Hospital.

Timothy Bantle, R.R.T., respiratory care supervisor,  along with Jeff Brown, ECMO specialist, are photographed with the portable ECMO machine, called CARDIOHELP. The CARDIOHELP machine will allow critically ill patients to be more easily transported to UF Health Shands Hospital.

A patient needed to come to UF Health Shands Hospital for a transplant. The problem was the patient was surviving with the support of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO — a machine that pumps blood out of the body, oxygenates it and pumps it back in. The machine is complex, making it hard to move.

However, the team charged with transporting the patient — which included staff members from UF Health Shands Hospital and UF Health ShandsCair — had a new, compact ECMO machine called the CARDIOHELP system. Earlier this year, for the first time, the team was able to successfully transport a patient on ECMO from an outside facility to UF Health using the new system.

“We had drills and simulations to familiarize ourselves with the machine. It’s light and compact but all of the components of the machine are very similar to the machine we have,” said Timothy Bantle, R.R.T., a respiratory care supervisor, who was one of the ECMO specialists who worked with the patient in the ambulance. “We spent a year working on the device to become familiar with it. After about a year, we felt ready.”

ECMO provides intensive care to patients with severe
heart and lung problems. It’s used as a last-resort life
support measure.

The ability to transport patients successfully using the compact system means a greater capacity for UF Health to serve critically ill patients. Although the new system may not be a fit for all cases, it expands UF Health’s ability to help patients in need.

“It’s a strong step forward for UF Health in further defining itself as a resource for the most complex patients. This device helps us on that larger mission,” said David Kays, M.D., the medical director of the UF Health ECMO program and associate chief of pediatric surgery, who was also part of the team.

Mark Bleiweis, M.D., director of the UF Health Congenital Heart Center, added, “I could very well see situations where there are sick children and adults who are placed on ECMO and need to be transported here for the kind of support we can provide with our teams’ experience with all sorts of critical diseases and problems.”

The CARDIOHELP system is 20 pounds and is the size of a small microwave, while the ECMO machine in the hospital is a couple hundred pounds and is the size of a professional stove, Bantle said.

UF Health ShandsCair provides all of the clinical staff, except the ECMO specialst, and all of the transportation, said Staccie Allen, M.S.N., ARNP, EMTP, CFRN, program director for ShandsCair.

When it comes to transporting patients, the teams are built according to the patient’s needs, she said.

“We’re training additional ECMO (specialists) so that we have greater availability for when these requests come in,” Allen said. “As far as limitations, the CARDIOHELP machine is a dedicated platform for ECMO transport.”

The goal now, according to Bantle, is to acquire more capability to transport patients on short notice.

“We are working toward growth and development,” Bantle said. “We’re in the learning stages now. We are working toward a larger team and having more equipment available.”