JOLIET, Ill. (CBS) — It’s pretty much back to normal life for one COVID-19 patient from Joliet.
Joseph Ciarlette was among the first to receive a breakthrough therapy. As CBS 2’s Steven Graves reported Saturday evening, it is a treatment hospitals continue to lean upon as cases rise.
“I feel really good. Got great energy,” Ciarlette said. “Very grateful that I made it.”
Seven months ago, Ciarlette, 54, was confined to a wheelchair. He left Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn after surviving COVID using an ECMO, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, machine.
“It is what saved my life,” Ciarlette said. “The ECMO gave my lungs a chance to rest.”
Back at the time he was diagnosed, the machine – which acts as an outside heart to circulate an oxygenate blood – was new in the COVID fight. It is an invasive last resort for people who have failed on a ventilator.
For survivors, side effects after such treatment – and even recovery time – were unknown.
“I was extremely weak – even sleeping. You know, if you could think about feeling like a bag of bones, that’s what it felt like,” Ciarlette said. “There was just no muscle.”
Ciarlette also said he had a low iron count in his blood, but feels back to normal now.
ECMO treatment has evolved as Chicago-area hospitals continue to use it during another spike in hospitalizations.
Rush University Medical Center on average uses the treatment on about half a dozen patients. Northwestern Medicine also uses ECMO to keep those fighting COVID alive as they wait on lung transplants.
Ciarlette, a success story, got to celebrate another birthday. He now gets check-up calls from the hospital to track his progress.
“She said, ‘Actually, I have about 18 others call after you,” he said. “So, thankfully others are recovering, too.”
Meanwhile, Ciarlette also got to celebrate Thanksgiving.
“Very thankful for my life this year,” he said.
Not every hospital has ECMO machines. And unlike ventilators, staff do not usually track the numbers of available devices.
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Source: CBS Chicago