With covid-19, bodybuilder used ECMO to survive; understand the therapy – 05/04/2021

At 28, entrepreneur and athlete Kaique Barbanti has always considered himself a healthy person – and no wonder. In recent years, a large part of his time has been dedicated to intense training in the academies he manages and to having a balanced diet.

In July 2020, even though he was young and without comorbidities, Kaique was affected by the new coronavirus and was in a serious condition.

“I had symptoms gastrointestinal, like vomiting and diarrhea, I lost my appetite and still had fever, headache and body pain. All of that was bearable, until I started to have trouble breathing “, he remembers.

On the 13th day, he was admitted to the Marcelino Champagnat Hospital, in Curitiba, cif blood oxygen saturation by 87%. Less than 24 hours later, he was intubated in the ICU.

After a week, he left intensive care for the first time and can celebrate his discharge with his family, but further tests detected a blood clot, which caused pulmonary embolism.

Back at the ICU, he was soon intubated again and, with the worsening of the condition, he was submitted to ECMO.

The acronym refers to thexigenation by extracorporeal membrane, made by a highly complex device that can artificially replace the function of the heart and lung (according to the needs of each patient).

How ECMO works

In the case of Kaique, the technology was used to replace the function of the lung. “The therapy does not cure the patient, whether he has covid-19 or other diseases, but it allows the organ not to fail while the rest of the organism fights the condition. It is a bridge to recovery”, says Jarbas da Silva Motta Junior, doctor intensivist at the Marcelino Champagnat Hospital.

Kaique during hospitalization

Image: Personal archive

The athlete, who was 62 days hospitalized and lost almost 30 kilos, he was the patient who had undergone the longest ECMO in Paraná. In total, 23 days were connected to the equipment. Your body started to respond only on the 15th.

The doctor explains that there is no set time for the patient to stay on the machine. “The membrane we use is valid for 14 days by the manufacturer. Patients who save, on average, stay for 7 to 10 days,” says the intensivist, who points out that 60% of patients undergoing ECMO die.

The long time that passed without Kaique showing any improvement worried the family. “Due to the lack of an initial response, I discovered that my family was called, in a subtle way, to say goodbye to me”, he recalls.

The therapy has a high value, around R $ 60 thousand, if the patient does not need to change the machine’s membrane. The cost is not covered by most agreements.

To incorporate it into hospitals, machines are not enough. “A multidisciplinary team is needed, with doctors, nursing technicians and physiotherapists who understand the device. The training was given by the hospital and during use, the professionals’ journey increases considerably”, explains Motta Júnior.

The technology can be used on people of all ages, from newborns to the elderly, but there are exclusion criteria. It poses a risk of hemorrhage, stroke, infection and embolism, so patients with comorbidities or compromised immune systems are not candidates.

After discharge, the long road to recovery

Due to the use of ECMO, Kaique’s lung recovered for 22 days, which made it possible for him to breathe again three days after leaving the device without any help.

He says that after leaving the hospital, he was surprised by his own appearance. “Looking in the mirror was a shock, I did not recognize myself. I am 1.70 m tall and I entered the hospital with 80 kg. I left with 53 kg, skin and bone.”

Six months have passed since the day Kaique was discharged. During that time, he did many sessions of speech therapy, respiratory and motor physiotherapy, in addition to several medical visits.

Today, he already considers that his health status is very close to what he was before. “I left determined to do everything to recover and I was totally committed to the process,” he says.

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