ECMO Prevents a Carbon Monoxide Death

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Allison Morgan and her husband's weekend race getaway ended in tragedy and what some people are calling a miracle. But a machine usually reserved for transplant patients was able to save Allison's life.

Allison savors every minute with four-year-old Carly Morgan. But for weeks, doctors and family weren't sure she'd ever see her again.

Allison, her husband, Craig Morgan, and friends went to Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama for a race.

"We cooked supper, had a shrimp boil that night, and then, got ready and went to bed. And that's the last thing I remember until I woke up ten days later," Allison told Ivanhoe.

A generator in the couple's RV malfunctioned, filling it with deadly carbon monoxide. Allison spent 10 days unconscious at UAB Hospital in Alabama.

Enrique Diaz, M.D., Pulmonologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham hooked Allison up to an extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, machine.

Dr. Diaz said, "She certainly was going to die that night. Support through ECMO saved her life."

For seven days, Allison's blood was pumped through the ECMO, which removed carbon dioxide and infused oxygen, and then put the blood back into her body. That let her heart and lungs rest and heal. And it worked.

When she came to, Allison learned that Craig had died that night in Talladega.

"I had to survive. I have a four-year-old at home, and she needs me. She's lost her father, and she needs me to be home," Allison stated.

She is still mourning her husband's loss, but Allison is also grateful that Dr. Diaz and his ECMO machine brought her home to Carly.

Dr. Diaz continues to use the ECMO machine in other non-traditional ways, with life-saving results. He's used it on Submitpatients with severe flu and patients with serious lung injuries or shock.
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