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The Cutting Edge

Heart-Lung Machine Saves Heart-attack Victim

James Manzi is lucky to be alive. When the 79-yearold Brentwood, California, resident arrived at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center’s emergency room in full cardiac arrest, the medical team tried everything to stabilize him, including shocking his heart 29 times with a defibrillator in an attempt to restore a normal rhythm.

  James Manzi, with his wife Barbara
  James Manzi, with his wife Barbara, is enjoying life after an emergency team at UCLA put a heart-lung machine to unique use to save his life.
Photo: Dr. William Suh

It was a long-shot; only one out of every 10 people who suffer cardiac arrest outside the hospital survives. Seeing that the efforts to resuscitate Manzi were proving fruitless, UCLA emergencymedicine physician Eric Savitsky, MD (RES ’95, FEL ’97), made an urgent request for a rarely used but potentially lifesaving technology known as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO.

ECMO employs a sophisticated pump to take over the functions of the heart and lungs and is traditionally used to support adults in cardiac failure waiting for a heart transplant and to help protect the delicate respiratory systems of premature infants. And, in this case, it proved to be a lifesaver for Manzi. Once on the ECMO device, his heart stabilized, and he was able to undergo coronary angioplasty on an artery that was completely blocked; a stent also was placed to keep the artery open. He has since made a nearly 100 percent recovery.

“We are so pleased that this rare use of ECMO helped save Mr. Manzi’s life,” Dr. Savitsky says. “ECMO may be a viable option in very select heartattack patients who come to emergency rooms that are equipped to provide this therapy.”

Manzi is grateful to the emergency and cardiac teams that went the extra mile to save his life — his wife Barbara calls them “angels in green” — and in April, he had the pleasure of being surrounded by family and friends while celebrating his 80th birthday. “I’ve always enjoyed my life and now appreciate it even more,” says the father of five, who also has six grandchildren. “Just being alive is wonderful.”


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