Despite those efforts, Maria soon required extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, a technique that provides respiratory and cardiac support to patients with lungs that cannot provide the oxygen their bodies need.
Patients are usually on ECMO only for a few weeks, but Maria stayed on ECMO for 67 days, which is very rare. What makes her story even more remarkable is that she was neurologically intact during her therapy. Unlike most patients, Maria interacted with her family and the UF Health team while undergoing the ECMO treatment. Her providers even had her up and walking around.
“This certainly was a first for the PICU, and the first time I’ve ever had a patient have the stamina to be able to do that,” said Janice Taylor, M.D., UF College of Medicine pediatric surgeon.
Taylor ensured Maria and her family were well-informed and supported.
“Dr. Taylor was caring and positive and kept us up-to-date,” said Dave Forbes. “She always gave us hope. She’s been there for everything.”
Lindsay Sikora, M.D., a UF College of Medicine pediatric critical care intensivist, also was instrumental in lifting Maria’s spirits by arranging for her to receive an autographed jersey from U.K. soccer player Marcus Rashford of the Manchester United team, which was shipped to Maria from England. She also received autographs and personalized video messages from the Orlando Pride, Orlando’s professional women’s soccer team.
“During the course of Maria’s ECMO treatment, so many health care providers took part in her care,” said Timothy Bantle, R.R.T., ECMO coordinator. “The team refused to give up hope or succumb to pessimism. Everyone was giving their all in every aspect of the care provided.”
Amanda Bonaccorso, R.R.T., B.S.A., M.B.A., a UF Health ECMO specialist, worked night and day to ensure Maria received the care she needed and that she felt at home. When Maria’s parents would go home for the night, Bonaccorso looked after Maria, learning her music preferences, discussing her favorite TV shows and even painting her nails.