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Patient Steve Burkes and his wife Caroline Henrich (center) returned to Jefferson just weeks after his illness to thank Drs. Hitoshi Hirose (far left), Harrison Pitcher (fourth from left), and Nicholas Cavarocchi, (to left of patient) and other members of the Adult ECMO Program.

In March, Jefferson’s Adult ECMO Program saved the life of Kennett Square resident and entrepreneur Steve Burkes. Burkes, 59, and his wife, Caroline Henrich, an attorney, report that his symptoms started with chills and fever. Since Burkes had recently been playing with their new Amazon parrot, the couple thought perhaps he had contracted an infection from the bird. Instead, it turned out to be Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), caused by a rare bacterial infection unrelated to the parrot.

By the time Henrich drove her husband to Jennersville Regional Hospital, he was incoherent. (“I felt like I was burning up from the inside – but nothing hurt,” he recalls.) After the hospital initially stabilized him, Burkes’ first chest X-ray looked good. But by the next morning, he had total whiteout of the chest xray, indicating pneumonia. Even with the ventilator fully open, he was still was only in the 70-percent range of oxygenation and mechanical ventilation was unable to deliver enough oxygen to saturate his blood.

The physician at Jennersville called Jefferson and arranged for Burkes to be transported via chopper to Center City, where he made a full recovery in just 10 days. Henrich lauds the fact that their small regional hospital knew when to call Jefferson: “The communication and transition between the two, as well as every single professional at Jefferson, impressed me beyond belief. Steve was fortunate to have these teams of medical experts working together so closely – especially with so many people and so many parts that could have gone wrong.”

Dr. Cavarocchi is eager to spread the word to clinicians to all local hospitals: “If you have a patient in respiratory or cardiogenic shock, call us – we’ll be able to come get that patient and take care of them.” Jefferson’s ECMO team can be reached by making a single call to 1-800-JEFF-121.

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