Machine used primarily for transplants saves OSU Wexner Medical Center patient from COVID-19


COLUMBUS (WCMH) – A machine that has been around for close to 10 years helped save the life of one 65-year-old Ohioan who contracted the coronavirus.

Harry Launder said he was first diagnosed with COVID-19 back in April. He went to the hospital with his wife for a mild cough and shortness of breath, but little did he know, he would be there for two months.

“That was the last she saw of me until June,” Launder said.

Launder’s wife was told he wouldn’t beat COVID-19, but they transferred him to the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center where he was treated by extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO).

ECMO is a type of artificial heart and lung machine for patients who have a failing heart and/or lungs. Many patients are put on ECMO if conventional therapies and medications have failed and for some, it’s a life-saving bridge to a lung or heart transplant.

The first patients transported under this new system came from northeastern Ohio and Indiana. In some of the direst COVID cases, like Launder’s, ECMO has been used to try to save patients’ lives.

“It was an experiment to keep me alive,” Launder said.

Launder did lose a few toes and some fingertips, but is happy to be alive.

According to Dr. Sree Satyapriya at OSU Wexner Medical Center, Wexner Medical Center started a new transport system this month to help very ill patients and reduce the strain on community hospitals.

“We’ve always relied on outside hospitals to arrange their own transport for those who are in need of this service after they get put on ECMO, to bring them here,” Satyapriya said. “Often times you need to travel with a specialized team, and it creates a strain on hospitals if they don’t have enough specialists to take care of them.”

She said the program is like a mobile ICU team that takes care of everything. To be put on ECMO, patients have to be in a very serious condition.

Seeing Launder recover from the virus with the use of the machines leaves other medical experts hopeful for their current patients.

“It really is what we live for,” Satyapriya said.

Click here to learn more about Wexner’s ECMO treatments.

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