“I wasn’t just sick, I almost died”: ECMO machine saves COVID patient’s life

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — A Springfield resident battling COVID-19 for months is now in the recovery process thanks to a machine called Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation, ECMO for short.

An ECMO machine is what doctors sometimes use after a ventilator doesn’t work anymore. The machine bypasses the lungs and puts oxygenated blood back in the body using a tube the size of a hose.

One tube goes in the neck and another one in the leg.

“I wasn’t just sick, I almost died,” said Larry Krauk, the Springfield resident using the ECMO. “It’s a very scary experience.”

“Despite having the ability to do it, the mortality for someone who ends up on ECMO, is very high,” said Dr. Mayrol Juarez, with pulmonary critical care at Mercy Hospital.

Krauck’s doctor, Mayrol Juarez, said 30 days is usually when they decide whether to take the patient off ECMO.

“Larry actually holds the record for how far we got after the number 30,” said Dr. Juarez.

Krauck said he hopes his record never gets broke.

“The fact that his kidney was working, his liver was working, he was able to be aroused in and awake and look around and follow commands. Tells you that we should keep going,” said Dr. Juarez.

Choosing to keep going was a decision that paid off.

“I’m proud to say just this week, I walked almost a mile in 20 minutes,” said Krauck. “I get more time to spend with my friends and my family and my grandchildren. That’s a gift I can never repay to the staff. We’re all guaranteed is we’re at some point going to pass away from this earth. When you have a near-death experience, and it puts into perspective that time is a very important thing, and those around you are very important, you want to make sure you let them know that.”

Paige Bussell, a nurse for Krauck, said she’s gotten to know Krauck during his stay at the hospital.

“I spent so many hours with him, so many 12-hour shifts, and I haven’t even heard his voice,” said Bussell. “So the first time I heard his voice, it brought me to tears.”

Krauck urges people in the community to take this disease seriously.

“They talk about 98% of the people who get COVID are going to survive. You could catch it and be the cold version or asymptomatic carrier, but you could give it to somebody, and they could have a reaction like I did,” said Krauck. “Respect the community. It’s something I take seriously. Every day I wake up, I’m very happy to have that opportunity to wake up. I’m very excited for what the next chapter of my life’s going to bring,”

For this type of ECMO machine that Krauck was on and specifically, for COVID-19 survival, Mercy Hospital’s survival rate is about 49%, while the national average is around 36%.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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