Dozens of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machines, also known as artificial heart-lung machines, were purchased for and sent to Hubei province and its capital Wuhan where a surging number of patients in severe and critical conditions were experiencing an extreme short supply of the live-saving devices after the outbreak of the COVID-19.
The efforts were made by the material support team of the central working group guiding COVID-19 control under the assistance from relevant ministries and departments, as well as enterprises and hospitals across the country. These machines played a very important role in saving the lives of patients in severe and critical conditions and lowering the morality rate of the disease.
A COVID-19 patient surnamed Li transferred to the department of critical care at Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital after developing respiratory failure was one of the many that benefited from the efforts. He was brought back to life with an ECMO machine and the timely treatment by Shang You, deputy director of the department, and his team.
According to preliminary estimates, 80 percent of the severely and critically ill patients who used ECMO machines were saved, which is a medical miracle, said Zhang Zongjiu, a member of the treatment team with the central working group guiding COVID-19 control and head of the Bureau of Medical Administration at the National Health Commission (NHC).
In the wee hours of Feb. 23, the material support team with the central working group guiding COVID-19 control notified the National Development and Reform Commission to dispatch the first batch of ECMO machines to Wuhan.
Upon receiving the order, the First Affiliated Hospital of Xi’an Jiaotong University in northwest China’s Shaanxi province immediately started preparing the machines. By 9 a.m. the next day, an ECMO machine, 30 sets of consumable materials, 30 sets of arterial and venous cannulas and 30 anesthesia puncture kits were packed and headed for Wuhan.
It took the hospital only 18 hours to test, maintain, and pack the ECMO equipment and relevant facilities. Behind the high efficiency was the hard work of the doctors, including Yan Yang, deputy director of the department of cardiovascular medicine at the hospital, and his 11 colleagues.
Yang and his colleagues donated 30 sets of consumable materials out of the hospital’s total stock of 35 sets, saying “We want to offer as much as we could to help treat COVID-patients in the epicenter.”
On Feb. 26, the material support team issued a second notice, asking hospitals around the country to send another batch of ECMO machines to Wuhan while ensuring their own demand was satisfied.
As of the morning of Feb. 27, the Second Affiliated Hospital with Zhengzhou University in central China’s Henan province sent 5 ECMO machines to Wuhan, becoming the largest contributor in the second batch of assistance.
Liu Xiaojun, director of the department of critical care at the hospital, made a long list to detailed information of the ECMO machine, including the hardware, the consumable materials, pictures of the machine parts and the contact information of his hospital in case the recipient hospitals needed instruction.
ECMO devices are high-precision machines that need high-standard transportation and packing. Therefore, Liu Qilin, director of the equipment support department of West China Hospital of Sichuan University in southwest China’s Sichuan province made a thorough and meticulous plan to send their 2 ECMO machines to Wuhan.
Liu and his team customized 8 wooden boxes respectively for packing the machines, blood pumps, water tanks, accessories, and consumable materials, and each box was well cushioned. The hospital also employed a chartered airplane as the batteries of the machines were not allowed to be transported by logistics companies.
Thanks to the efforts, a total of 21 ECMO equipment donated by Chinese hospitals arrived in Wuhan, and were soon used to treat severely and critically ill patients there.