Breaking News
More () »

Healthwatch 16: ECMO team speaks out

In this Healthwatch 16 report, Nikki Krize talks with two ECMO specialists at Geisinger about what they are currently seeing.

DANVILLE, Pa. — People who are sick with COVID-19 can be given various treatments and therapies to recover. Some of the sickest patients are put on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation or ECMO. The ECMO machine pulls blood from the body into an oxygenator and returns it to the body.

"Essentially, we're doing the work of the lung artificially outside the body, which will allow the lungs to rest in hopes that they will heal," said Matthew Bauer, an ECMO specialist with Geisinger.

Only a small percentage of patients need ECMO. They are often intubated, intensely monitored, and confined to a bed for several weeks, where they may recover.

Evan Gajkowski and Matthew Bauer are ECMO specialists at Geisinger. They care for these patients around the clock.

"With this omicron variant, we've seen that people are a lot sicker when they come into the hospital. The hospital itself is getting inundated with patients with COVID, and the majority of them are unvaccinated," Bauer said.

Bauer and Gajkowski tell Newswatch 16 they have not treated any vaccinated COVID-19 patients with ECMO.

"That's 100%, that's pretty slap-in-the-face data to say if you're vaccinated, you're going to avoid this ICU care or this very critical therapy," said Gajkowski. "This is not a debatable topic anymore. This is very straightforward information. We want you to get vaccinated because we are tired of taking care of unvaccinated patients that tell us or their families tell us that they wish they would have gotten vaccinated."

Gajkowski says many of the patients he treats with ECMO need lung transplants when they recover.

Watch more stories about the coronavirus pandemic on WNEP's YouTube page.