Extreme Respiratory and Cardiac Distress: ECMO Treatment Buys Time

In early March, Kenny Bruton, a healthy 34-year-old, ended up in the intensive care unit at the Royal Victoria Hospital, fighting for his life. He developed a serious infection from an injury, which led to extreme respiratory and cardiac distress.

His condition required an emergency intervention as a last resort. Had it not been for the treatment called ECMO, ExtraCorporeal Membrane Oxygenation, Kenny who is now fully recovered, probably would not have survived. This relatively unknown technique oxygenates the heart and lungs and buys the healthcare team time to find solutions.

Dr. Gordan Simoukovic, critical care physician and head of the ECMO program at the MUHC, is a firm believer in this option for patients who are between life and death. ECMO is also used on patients with serious complications due to COVID-19, although it’s not yet possible to draw satisfactory conclusions about the treatment because of the novelty of the virus.

Kenny is on the verge of returning to work as a firefighter and to training in combat sports. He is extremely grateful to the nursing staff and thanks the MUHC for the exceptional quality of care he received during his ICU stay.