FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Doctors at Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale are hailing new state of the art equipment they say helped save a patient's life.
That man, Alberto Perez, told Local 10 News about his discharge from the hospital, which was unlike any other.
"I was overwhelmed, seeing all those doctors and nurses," he said.
The 39-year spent the past month in the ICU, battling a severe case of COVID-19.
Body aches, fever and trouble breathing were his initial symptoms, which eventually led to him being placed in a medically induced coma and on a ventilator.
"I’m here because of everything they did for me around the clock," Perez said.
And that everything included new, cutting edge technology called ECMO Therapy, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation.
"It’s no doubt in your mind," said Dr. Irving David from Holy Cross Hospital.
Dr. David said Alberto would have died "within the hour," without the treatment.
"It was that critical," he said.
ECMO is a machine that has an oxygenator for the lungs and a pump to cycle a patient’s blood.
In layman’s terms, cardiothoracic surgeons at the hospital say it can be considered a lung and heart machine.
The treatment is rarely used, as only 21 lives in the entire world have been saved by it. Alberto is the first such patient in South Florida.
"It’s very expensive, expansive and labor-intensive technology, but it is the really the only way to replace oxygen and take out carbon dioxide from the blood when the lungs can’t do it," Dr. David said.
Alberto is on the mend now because the machine kept him alive long enough to receive antibody serum, or the blood from a different patient who has recovered from the virus.
Doctors say both treatments were key to the survival of this patient, who was out of options.
"We only have three machines, so if we were giving it to everybody, then we’d run out immediately," said Dr. David. "We have to reserve it for those who are the best candidates."
“It makes me look at life from a different perspective,” said Alberto. “I could’ve been one of those people who did not make it.”