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Family fights for ECMO machine as father battles COVID-19 in Chandler

Posted at 4:09 PM, Jan 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-03 22:35:30-05

CHANDLER, AZ — “He’s so young, he’s 40 years old, he still has so much to do,” said Miriam Martinez.

Miriam is heartbroken, as her husband, Carlos, remains on a ventilator at Banner Ocotillo in Chandler after contracting coronavirus in mid-December.

“We have a three-year-old daughter, her birthday was on the 20th of December so we’re still waiting for my husband to come home so we can celebrate her birthday,” said Martinez.

Carlos, who is unvaccinated due to religious reasons, is running out of options. He qualifies to be treated by ECMO but none are available for him, or many others in the same situation, around the state.

Martinez has now turned to an air transport company in hopes of flying to Mexico where a machine and bed are waiting.

“Now we have a hospital that is willing to take him, and they have the treatment that can give him more to save his life,” said Martinez. “Banner says they can’t transfer him to another local hospital, so this is is his last hope.”

Unfortunately, because Carlos is not on an ECMO machine at the moment, the transport team would not only have to fly in with one but Banner surgeons would have to put him on the machine before flying out.

“For our liability’s sake and for the hospitals’ liability sake, it’s got to be somebody experienced doing it,” said Alex Quintana with AirCARE1, a medical transport company. “It’s a very specialized procedure and qualified professionals are limited.”

He says nearly every patient requesting these transports chose not to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Making complicated transfers like this happen isn’t easy or likely, especially as hospital systems around the country continue to be overwhelmed.

“The pumps are back-ordered, everything is in short supply, the equipment’s in short supply but mainly trained staff is in short supply because the world was not prepared for the impact of COVID and the number of patients that were going to be requiring ECMO treatment,” said Quintana.

To have Carlos transported would cost around $75,000, all of which would be out of pocket. It’s a cost the family is ready to burden, but right now Banner tells the family that staffing issues would make them unable to facilitate the transfer.

It’s something Miriam hopes will change before it’s too late.

We’ve reached out to the hospital for a response but have not heard back.

Quintana says he hopes others will hear this story and realize getting the free vaccine to prevent these types of heartbreaking situations is far easier than paying the huge cost of transport and trying to coordinate them at a time when healthcare systems are on the brink.