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Life-saving treatment for severe cases of pneumonia, flu now offered at Pensacola hospital

Life-saving treatment for severe cases of pneumonia, flu now offered at Pensacola hospital

Battling pneumonia or the flu can be scary. However, there is a life-saving treatment available at Baptist Hospital aimed at treating the most severe cases.

It's the only treatment of its kind being offered in the region. It's called Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO).

The treatment has already helped several people near death. For instance, 17-year-old Payne Jones was vacationing in Destin last July.

A few days later he was on the brink of death after one of his lungs failed unexpectedly.

Jones said, "They actually do not know. They still don't know what actually caused me, my lungs to fill up."

He was attached to a ventilator but it could only do so much. Jones was eventually transferred to Baptist and put in a medically induced coma.

At the hospital, he was put on an ECMO machine. ECMO therapy is used for very sick people who aren't responding to conventional treatments like ventilators.

Dr. Enrique Diaz, an independent pulmonologist at Baptist Hospital, said there are limits to ventilators.

"Basically the ventilators will have to push a little air with oxygen," Dr. Diaz said. "If your lungs don't work there's only so much the ventilator can do and if you're using maximum support with the ventilator and your body isn't getting enough oxygen your other organs will start failing."

Dr. Diaz said without ECMO people battling respiratory or cardiac problems wouldn't have a chance of surviving.

ECMO can support the lungs or both the heart and lungs allowing them to recover.

The machine filters the blood, allowing oxygen to be added to the blood and returned back to a patient's body.

Dr. Diaz said, "It's important that it's considered on time and before the rest of organs are failing because if you call for help when the patient is dying it's going to be difficult for the technology to change the outcome."

As you can imagine, doctors and Jones' are glad ECMO worked.

"Actually within 12 to 24 hours we were able to ween most of his support because once you provide oxygen to the body ,if you're young and healthy, the rest of the organs will start working," Dr. Diaz said.

Jones said, "I'm definitely thankful because without that I definitely would not be sitting here at the moment."

ECMO is also available in Birmingham, Gainesville, and New Orleans.

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