By Andrea Mongler
It’s 1982, and a man is having a heart attack. An ambulance rushes him to the emergency department, where he’s given a nitroglycerin tablet and a drug called nifedipine.
The treatment doesn’t seem to work, and the man’s heart sustains serious damage. An emergency physician delivers the news to the man’s family: “He might not survive the night. We’ll keep him comfortable, but there’s nothing else we can do.”
For years, this scene was a common one, played out again and again in emergency departments across the nation. Physicians did their best to care for heart attack patients—but their best too often wasn’t enough. That’s because nifedipine and other drugs used at the time simply weren’t effective.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY GREGG GOLDMAN
In the fall of 2021, Curiosus writer and Barnes-Jewish Hospital administrative fellow Emily Dovolis Thomson, MHA, talked with Muhammad Faraz Masood, MD, Washington University cardiothoracic surgeon, and other members of a specialized team about a life-saving procedure called ECMO, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. Often used to treat the sickest of the sick, ECMO sustains life when the body no longer can. During the days of the SARS-coV-2 pandemic, ECMO, which performs the functions the heart and lungs can no longer manage, has become a valuable tool in saving lives.
This photo essay suggests the level of expertise required to care for patients undergoing ECMO, an intervention with many moving parts. It takes a dedicated team to manage the complexities.
BY Connie Mitchell
“It was a lonely experience.” That’s how Dave Barylski remembers the long hours at his babies’ bedsides. Twins, the girls were born in April 2019 weighing just more than 1 pound each after birth at 22 weeks of gestation. Barylski and his partner, Bethany Watkins, practically lived in the newborn intensive care unit (NICU) at St. Louis Children’s Hospital for seven months—and he was often the only father in the unit. “I was lucky that my job offered paternity leave and extended family leave so I could be there, but being a dad in that situation, I had to piggyback off the services that are usually focused on moms,” he says. “I was the only father there during lunches and in the support groups that were clearly aimed at moms’ needs.