Local doctor saved by Montana's first ECMO heart-lung bypass pro - KULR8.com | News, Weather & Sports in Billings, Montana

Local doctor saved by Montana's first ECMO heart-lung bypass procedure

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Dr. Jennifer Beckwith smiles with her 7-year-old son, Bauer. Beckwith is the first Billings Clinic patient to undergo a life-saving ECMO heart-lung bypass procedure Dr. Jennifer Beckwith smiles with her 7-year-old son, Bauer. Beckwith is the first Billings Clinic patient to undergo a life-saving ECMO heart-lung bypass procedure
Beckwith family Beckwith family
Jennifer and Jason Beckwith Jennifer and Jason Beckwith
KULR-8's Melinda Lee was overjoyed to learn Billings Clinic's first ECMO procedure saved the life of her primary care provider KULR-8's Melinda Lee was overjoyed to learn Billings Clinic's first ECMO procedure saved the life of her primary care provider
Beckwith family and Billings Clinic staff involved in saving the doctor's life through the hospital's first ECMO procedure Beckwith family and Billings Clinic staff involved in saving the doctor's life through the hospital's first ECMO procedure

Jennifer Beckwith was facing death when her lungs began to fail. 

"I knew that it was very serious and that things had gotten pretty ugly" Beckwith said. 

The 37-year-old woman provides for her community as a Billings Clinic doctor, but found herself on the other side of medical care when a surgery to remove kidney stones began to take a downward spiral. 

"When they went in to do a procedure, they found an infection around my kidney," Beckwith said, "and the infection spread throughout my body and my lungs shut down."

Beckwith's hubsand, Jason, prepared for the worst.

"She was in very, very poor health," Jason Beckwith said, "they explained to me how dire it was."

That's when Billings Clinic prepared to do something they had never done before.

"I wouldn't have lived without it," Beckwith said, "I wouldn't have lived without the machine."

The machine Beckwith refers to is ECMO, or "Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation." Pam Zinnecker, an ICU Nurse Clinician at Billings Clinic, used her efforts to bring the heart-lung bypass modification to the hospital. She and other ICU nurses at Billings Clinic also certified as ECMO specialists over the past year. 

"I've seen us have patients that were so sick in the ICU that we needed to move them elsewhere, or we couldn't save them," Zinnecker said, "so I learned more about ECMO procedure and I knew we could do it here."

After 6 days on  ECMO support, Beckwith is happy to be alive thanks to the procedure and the Billings Clinic team.

"I owe them my life," Beckwith said, " I can't say enough about them. They took care of me and they took care of my family."

Now, Beckwith looks forward to spending Thanksgiving with her husband and son, Bauer, 7, and Billings Clinic staff look forward to saving more lives through ECMO. 

"We're gonna keep identifying patients," Zinnecker said, "and I hope we can grow the program, to get another ECMO machine, more trained staff."

Beckwith is now out of the hospital and on the road to recovery. 

"It makes you realize that family and people in your life are more important than work, or anything," Beckwith said. "Family is everything."

Hear from Montana's first ECMO patient on KULR-8 News tonight at 10 p.m.

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