April 06, 2021
PLANO – One year after Gary Olive was admitted as Medical City Plano’s first COVID-19 patient and Texas’ first extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) patient, he returned to thank his caregivers during an emotional reunion.
“To me a simple thank you feels inadequate,” says Olive, “I am thankful to my doctors for their willingness to admit me, for the risk they took, and for the resources they choose to use on me. I am thankful to all of these healthcare pioneers who saved my life.”
Olive and his wife, Karen, tested positive for COVID-19 in March 2020. After being hospitalized for three days in their hometown of Tyler, Texas for coronavirus complications, Olive’s condition rapidly declined. He was transported by ambulance to Medical City Plano for highly advanced artificial life-support called ECMO, which had never been tried on a COVID-19 patient in Texas. In ECMO, blood is pumped outside of the body to a heart-lung machine that removes carbon dioxide and sends oxygen-filled blood back into the tissues. The treatment allows the heart and lungs to rest and heal.
“At the time, there were no other facilities in Texas using ECMO for COVID-19 patients. We knew we had to do something to save Mr. Olive,” says Crescens Pellecchia, DO, director of Medical City Plano’s ECMO program. “He is the first COVID patient in Texas to survive COVID-19 with ECMO, which paved the way for so many others to be saved by this sophisticated and life-saving technology.”
Studies subsequently published in the medical journal The Lancet, along with other publications, provide support for ECMO use in eligible patients for whom a ventilator is no longer sufficient for life-support. Because of the technology and skill required to use it, only a few hundred hospitals nationwide have the ability to perform ECMO.
“It was a game-changer,” says Scott Van Poppel, MD, critical care director at Medical City Plano. “Seeing Mr. Olive now, this is really a joyous occasion. It emphasizes why we work so hard.”
Olive spent nearly a month in Medical City Plano’s COVID-19 ICU before discharging to a long-term rehabilitation center and then to another inpatient rehabilitation center in Tyler. “I feel so blessed and know that this extra time is a gift from God,” says Olive.
Olive is now recovered and back home with his wife and family.