Baby battling enterovirus D68 saved by '3rd lung' technique

DURHAM, N.C. -- A 2-month-old fighting enterovirus D68 at Duke Hospital has recovered and is ready to go home.

Brandy McGehee says her daughter Sophie developed a bad cough only a couple of weeks after she was born. Thinking it was a cold, Brandy took her to their family doctor. After several visits and a trip to a hospital in Moore County, Sophie was airlifted to WakeMed.

"It's my child," said McGehee. "I couldn't fix it. I couldn't stop it. And I couldn't make it better."

Once at WakeMed, Sophie tested positive for enterovirus D68. Her lungs were failing. Doctors hooked her up to ventilators and tried treating her for several days, but nothing worked.

Dr. Mark Piehl, medical director of WakeMed Children's Hospital, said it was the scenario he and staff at Duke Hospital had been planning for over the last year.

"What if we had a child with such severe lung disease that our ventilators or machines that take over breathing for children were not enough to save their lives?" asked Piehl. "What would we do?"

Their solution was ECMO, or Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation.

"Since Sophie's lungs were not working, she wasn't able to bring oxygen into her blood and exhale carbon dioxide," explained Ira Cheifetz, Duke Hospital Medical Dir. ECMO Program. "We were able to use another machine, the ECMO machine to do just that."

With a team of doctors from two hospitals, Sophie was hooked up to the ECMO machine, moved from Raleigh to Durham by ambulance, and within five days had recovered.

"She's not on any machines, she has no IVs, nothing," her mom said.

"Sophie would have died with a good deal of certainty if it wasn't for the efforts of folks at WakeMed and Duke and this technology to be able to save her," said Cheifetz.

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