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Central Omaha hospital receives multi-million dollar grant to expand life-saving care

ECMO procedures help patients to breathe, circulate blood with external machine
Posted at 9:27 PM, May 17, 2024

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The technology sounds like something out of a sci-fi story — an artificial set of lungs and heart that enable a person to stay alive. But that's exactly what the extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, procedure allows.

CHI Health Creighton University Medical Center-Bergan Mercy will soon expand the use of this treatment, thanks to a $2.6 million dollar grant from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. The hospital system says the grant will go toward the purchase of more ECMO pumps plus the training and hiring of more specialists.

The procedure is used when an individual has advanced heart failure or can no longer breathe on their own, said to be a temporary way to "save lives in cases that would otherwise offer little chance of survival," according to a CUMC Bergan-Mercy release.

Apart from the ability to recirculate and oxygenate the blood from a person's body, an ECMO pump is different than a ventilator in that ventilators still involve the use of a patient's lungs. This is in order to let the organs "rest" for healing. The Mayo Clinic says that other conditions that may warrant the use of an ECMO procedure include severe hypothermia, acute respiratory syndrome, hantavirus, stroke and others.

A trustee of the Helmsley Charitable Trust explained the decision to issue the grant. “Your ZIP code shouldn't determine your healthcare outcomes, and residents of rural and urban areas should get the same access to state-of-the-art treatment,” said Walter Panzirer in the statement issued by CUMC Bergan-Mercy.

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