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Riley Hospital celebrates 900 lives saved with special medical treatment

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Thanks to a machine at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health, over 900 young lives have been saved.

It’s called ECMO, which is short for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. It’s a life support machine that takes over the work for the baby’s heart and lungs.

Doctors say some of those lives would’ve been lost without it.

“If you can imagine a baby coming into the newborn ICU or on a breathing machine who is very sick, despite everything we can do, is getting sicker and sicker,” said Dr. William Engle, the co-director of ECMO at Riley.

It’s a scenario they see fairly often.

The ECMO machine is in the NICU at the hospital. It breaths for the baby and pumps their blood.

A week old baby named Devin was on the machine when 24-Hour News 8 visited. Thanks to the treatment, Devin is expected to survive.

“We put this baby on this serious of equipment, a heart/lung bypass device and they get better, it’s profoundly changes the way we manage babies,” said Engle.

Families whose children were saved by ECMO celebrated the machine and the doctors at Riley Wednesday morning.

“They basically saved his life. They don’t think he would’ve lived without the ECMO,” said Angie Goodman. Goodman was at the hospital with her husband and children. Her 5-year-old Isaac received the treatment when he was a newborn.

“You’re helpless. It’s like your being held down in restraint. As a father you want to protect your kids,” said Kenneth Goodman.

Isaac is now headed to kindergarten next school year.

“He’s our little miracle,” said Angie Goodman.

The machinery has evolved over the 30 years. The first one was purchased by the Hulman family.

They say in the critical early days attention to the baby is crucial.

“It’s a really a combination of the pediatric surgeons, the cardiovascular surgeons, our neonatologists, our intensivists, and most importantly our tech team,” said Dr. Karen West, the co-director of ECMO.

“Instead of hours in an operating room, we’re doing it for days or even weeks in a newborn pediatric or cardiac ICUs,” said Engle.

This treatment isn’t cheap.

Baby Devin’s family says they need $5,000 to pay his medical bills. They’ve set up a GoFundMe account.

The event was held on Wednesday because it was on May 31, 1987, that Riley’s first baby successfully received ECMO treatment.

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