ECMO Survivors: Samantha's Story

July 23, 2015

Samantha Burchart was born at a hospital in Joliet in 1993. She was born via a C-section 12 days after her original due date. Soon after birth, doctors discovered that she had a diaphragmatic hernia, which can occur when the diaphragm does not completely form, and a gap is created between the chest and the abdominal cavities. In Samantha’s case, her intestines had moved up to her chest cavity through the hole in her diaphragm, and were now over her left lung. It was severely limiting her ability to breathe, so she was airlifted to Children’s Memorial Hospital, now known as Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.

Her mother Sharon couldn’t leave the delivery room yet, so her husband followed Samantha to Children’s Memorial. Once they arrived, the specialists in the Division of General Pediatric Surgery immediately put Samantha on life support to see if her lungs would begin to function better, but after 23 hours, they decided it was time to put Samantha on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). ECMO is a life-support machine for patients with severe lung or heart issues. It is a form of cardiopulmonary bypass in which an artificial heart and lung machine temporarily takes over to supply blood to the child’s body.

Samantha spent five days on ECMO. She was then put on a ventilator and then was tube-fed until she was four months old.

Today Samantha is 22 years old and is working hard as she studies for her nursing board exams.