Children’s, Airlift Northwest offer mobile life-saving care

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Children’s, Airlift Northwest offer mobile life-saving care

Heart-lung circulatory system will enable babies with weak organs to travel

Seattle Children’s, in a partnership with Airlift Northwest, will offer an advanced life-support therapy to critically ill children during transport from Washington, Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana and Oregon.

It is the first children’s hospital on the West Coast to provide the external heart-lung circulatory system for babies whose organs are so weak that they previously would have precluded travel. The treatment, called extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), supports babies with life-threatening conditions such as those that lead to heart transplantation. 

“ECMO can be a critically life-sustaining bridge to support very ill children to their next phase of treatment,” said Dr. Michael McMullan, the hospital's director of mechanical cardiac support and extracorporeal life support services and an associate professor of surgery at the University of Washington School of Medicine“Connecting a child to ECMO and providing treatment to get them back to a normal life requires a highly-specialized team." 

Airlift Northwest, a UW Medicine entity, is the Pacific Northwest’s leading air medical transport provider. The mobile team includes Airlift Northwest's specialty-trained flight nurses as well as Seattle Children's cardiac surgeons, intensivists, perfusionists and intensive care nurses. They will travel by ambulance, helicopter or fixed-wing aircraft. The team can transport children who are already on ECMO to Seattle Children’s, or connect a child to ECMO before transport. 

Patients like 3-year-old Hannah Mae Campbell represent the importance of ECMO access. Born in 2012 with a condition that caused her heart to grow continuously and beat rapidly, Hannah went into cardiac arrest a few weeks after birth. When she did not respond to CPR, her care team at Seattle Children’s put her on ECMO to keep her alive. She was listed as a heart-transplant candidate and, several weeks later, received the life-saving gift.

“We would not have our daughter today if it weren’t for ECMO and the heart transplant,” said Jennifer Campbell, Hannah’s mother. “ECMO gave us hope to get to the critical next step in her care and we want other families to know that you can come out the other side. Hannah is doing amazingly well. I feel so grateful to those who saved her life.”

To request an ECMO transport evaluation, contact the hospital's emergency department communication center at 206-987-8899 or 866-987-8899.