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Children’s Hospital Team Achieves National Recognition for Expertise in Life Support October 06, 2017


The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio has once again achieved the highest level of recognition for its use of life-saving technology known as Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation or “ECMO.” The Extracorporeal Life Support Organization (ELSO) presented the Gold Level ELSO Award for Excellence in Life Support to representatives from both the Neonatal and the Pediatric Intensive Care Units at its annual conference in Baltimore last week. The technology has been in use at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio for more than 25 years and has saved many children’s lives. The Hospital team was first recognized as a Center of Excellence by ELSO in 2010.

“ECMO is considered a last-ditch effort when a child experiences heart and/or lung failure. The machine takes over these organ functions to allow the child’s own body to heal. It can be used on a premature infant that is just a few hours old to children of all ages who may be facing a life-threatening condition that affects the pulmonary system,” said Dr. Elumalai Appachi, Section Chief, Critical Care and medical director, Pediatric ECMO Services.

“For any family, it can be quite frightening to see their fragile newborn or sick child attached to the ECMO device. We have specially trained and highly experienced nurses, therapists, and physicians monitoring these children around the clock. Being designated as a Center of Excellence demonstrates our expertise and commitment to the children of our region,” said Dr. Cody Henderson, medical director, Neonatal ECMO Services.

The ELSO Award signifies to patients and families a commitment to exceptional patient care. It also demonstrates to the health care community an assurance of high quality standards, specialized equipment and supplies, defined patient protocols, and advanced education of all staff members. A designated Center of Excellence has demonstrated extraordinary achievement in the following categories:

  1. Excellence in promoting the mission, activities, and vision of ELSO
  2. Excellence in patient care by using the highest quality measures, processes, and structures based upon evidence
  3. Excellence in training, education, collaboration, and communication supporting ELSO guidelines that contributes to a healing environment for families, patients, and staff

The ECMO team at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio includes the ALL KIDZ Transport Team that can be dispatched any time to bring a child to the Hospital for treatment. The team has traveled to El Paso, the Rio Grande Valley, and Laredo to pick up children experiencing a medical crisis.

Isaac Garza from the Rio Grande Valley was one of those children. One year ago, he had a headache that turned into respiratory failure within days. His condition baffled doctors who struggled to diagnose his condition. His mother, Laura Garza , said when the transport team came into her son’s hospital room and took over, she felt inspired and hopeful that her little boy would pull through. The team’s professionalism gave her hope and confidence. Isaac’s parents say his recovery was nothing short of a miracle and praised the entire Hospital team for saving their son’s life, restoring his physical strength, and ability to walk again.