Doctors in Arizona saved a Phoenix man With COVID 19, who was at death’s door, using a rare and risky procedure. This story, written by Alison Steinbach, appeared in The Arizona Republic.

A Phoenix man is the first in Arizona to survive COVID-19 through a rare form of treatment called extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) therapy.

Enes Dedic, 53, was on the brink of death with a ventilator until his doctors at HonorHealth used ECMO as a last resort. Dedic is among the first U.S. COVID-19 patients to survive the disease by using the treatment and is among around 10 worldwide.

ECMO works by helping oxygenate blood outside the body so blood doesn’t need to transfer through damaged or filled lungs. Instead, tubes carry blood from the body to an external artificial lung that removes carbon dioxide and adds oxygen, at which point an artificial heart pumps the blood back into the body.

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It’s a last hope treatment, as the mortality rate on ECMO is around 40% — “extraordinarily high for almost any medical procedure” — according to Dedic’s doctors.

After 10 days in a medical coma on ECMO, Dedic woke up responsive and soon was able to FaceTime his wife.

“I can’t even express myself,” his wife Olivera Dedic said. “I was jumping through the roof when I heard that they woke him up and he’s doing better.”

After returning from travel overseas, Enes Dedic spent a few weeks at home in the Deer Valley area of Phoenix battling fevers, chills, aches and nausea.

He first checked into HonorHealth’s Deer Valley Medical Center on March 15 and quickly deteriorated. He was intubated and transferred to the HonorHealth John C. Lincoln Medical Center in Phoenix for increased mechanical ventilation.

A team of doctors tried everything to save him, said Dr. Anselmo Garcia, a pulmonologist and critical care physician. Enes Dedic was treated with all the potential drugs used for COVID-19 including hydrochloroquine, azithromycin, Kaletra, Actemra, antibiotics and anti-inflammatories.

None of these worked.

As a last resort, doctors turned to ECMO, said Dr. Robert Riley, chief of cardiothoracic surgery at HonorHealth. Riley performed the surgical procedure for ECMO.