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Melissa's story: ECMO saved her life

After nearly a year in the hospital, Cochran-native Melissa Laney is back to living life to the fullest.

In August of 2021, Melissa’s life was turned upside down after she was diagnosed with COVID-19. What she thought were mild COVID symptoms almost ended her life. 

After three days at Dodge County Hospital in rural Eastman, Georgia, Melissa’s lungs were failing. Her health care team had exhausted their facility’s treatment options for her severe case of COVID-19. Melissa needed the support of advanced lifesaving technology called ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation). Hospital staff inquired with the 10 Georgia hospitals that offer ECMO, and Northside Hospital Gwinnett in Lawrenceville answered the call. 

Melissa was transferred to Northside Gwinnett, where the treatment team placed her on ECMO for 42 days. Her organs were so badly damaged that she needed a lung transplant if she was going to recover. Melissa’s team applied to the U.S. transplant network on her behalf and arranged for a chartered flight to Tampa General Hospital, where Melissa remained on ECMO an additional 35 days and received the transplanted organs. 

ECMO is essentially a heart-lung bypass machine that is the highest form of life support given to patients. Northside Hospital Heart Institute launched ECMO at Northside Gwinnett in early 2021. 

"We use ECMO in patients who have failed conventional therapies, patients who are on a ventilator with severe lung injury from the flu, COVID-19  or other potential injuries to the lungs,” said Dr. Allison Dupont, interventional cardiologist and medical director of the ECMO program at Northside Gwinnett. “The device is a major addition to the Northside system, as it allows us to care for the sickest of the sick patients, rather than running the risk of transporting these patients to another facility for ECMO.” 

Today, Melissa is in much better health as she continues her recovery at home with her family in Cochran, Georgia. 

“My experience at Northside was wonderful,” Melissa says. “The nurses and staff went above and beyond. They took really good care of me.” 

Melissa was able to visit her Northside Gwinnett treatment team recently to thank them for their compassionate and skilled care. Watch the story here:

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