DES MOINES, Iowa — After spending nearly five weeks in an Omaha hospital clinging to life, a Grimes mother of two is now in a rehabilitation center in Des Moines.
Julie Jorgensen was hospitalized in December after having trouble breathing. Doctors' at Methodist hospital diagnosed her with influenza A.
“I was afraid I was going to lose my wife. We have a 6-year-old and a 2-year-old. I was trying to process what I would do with them by myself,” husband Mark Jorgensen, who is a sergeant with the Urbandale Police Department, said at the time.
As her condition worsened, she was transferred to a hospital in Omaha. It’s what doctors did before Jorgensen was transferred that Mark says saved her life.
Doctors used an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation or “ECMO” machine to keep Jorgensen’s heart and lungs from failing. The ECMO machine acts as an artificial heart and lung, taking the strain off the affected organs to help them heal.
"That’s were ECMO can stabilize the oxygenation so the patient has a fighting chance," says Iowa Clinic cardiothoracic surgeon, Chris Komanapalli, "In these situations you have a few minutes to make a decision."
A team of a dozen or more nurses and doctors aided in the procedure which is rarely performed in the intensive care unit. A few of the doctors had only practiced using the machine. As a result, doctors say they are pushing for more "ECMO" training in the ICU so others can potentially benefit from the treatment.
"Bringing this to other providers so that they are aware. It's about knowledge. There are options we can offer that gives them a life saving chance," says Komanapalli.
Jorgensen is currently at Younker Rehabilitation Center in Des Moines to regain her strength and mobility to her limbs. After several months of rehab, doctors predict Jorgensen will make a full recovery.