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Patient Stories

Kylie's Story

"We received incredible care from the moment we arrived at NYP. I felt like everyone there was working together to save Kylie's life."

Kylie and her family sitting ona red cubeKylie was born a perfectly healthy child. But when she was two years old, a mild cold quickly spiraled into respiratory distress. Her ICU doctors at the time could do nothing more for her but believed she would die if they moved her elsewhere. Kylie’s mom reached out to NewYork-Presbyterian, so we came to get her.

Kylie’s lungs had collapsed and her heart was weak. Doctors put her on ECMO — a machine that oxygenated her blood and pumped it through her body, essentially keeping her alive while giving her lungs and heart a break so they could heal. Most patients are on ECMO less than two weeks — Kylie for a grueling 49 days. Because her blood flow was affected, her kidneys began to fail. She experienced strokes and seizures.

“We never knew whether she would survive or not till the last minute,” says her mom.

“She definitely hung in there. And we hung in there with her,” says Dr. Eva Cheung, Medical Director for Pediatric ECMO. Kylie made a remarkable recovery. “Most kids leave with a tracheostomy. She didn’t.”

Today Kylie is an active pre-schooler who just returned from Disney — a special trip her mom promised and was only too happy to fulfill.


About ECMO

“ECMO is not a cure. It just buys you precious time.”

— Dr. Eva Cheung, Medical Director, Pediatric ECMO

ECMO stands for Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation – a technology where a machine does the work of the heart and lungs for a patient when their own body or certain medical therapies are not enough. This gives both organs a break and time to heal.

In Kylie’s case, blood was taken from her body through tubes that went into the blood vessels of her neck. It was then pumped through the ECMO machine, which provided oxygen to her blood and served as her mechanical lung. Because of the severity of her infection, Kylie’s lungs required multiple procedures and caused stress on her heart. The ECMO machine also pumped blood through her body in order to do the work of her heart.