Wednesday, July 29, 2020 7:59 PM

Beating coronavirus took a team and a machine

Thirty-five-year-old Sophia Zapata went out to get food for her family in the first weeks the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic hit Fresno. Though she’d donned a mask and tried to social distance as health officials recommended, there were others who were not taking precautions all around her. No one really knew much about COVID-19 at that time.
 
Soon after that, she started feeling sick and her asthma worsened, making it hard to breathe. So Zapata went to a local hospital to get tested. The mother of two remembers walking in … and then everything around her went black.
 
The next thing Zapata knew, she woke up in a hospital bed where they were working to keep her alive. To save her life, the hospital staff transferred her to Community Regional Medical Center for a higher level of care where a team of clinicians treated her for several weeks.
 
But after a ventilator wasn’t enough to save Zapata, the highly-skilled clinicians at Community Regional decided – as a last option – its ECMO team and treatment might save her. ECMO, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, uses a pump to circulate blood outside the body to an artificial lung that puts oxygen into the bloodstream and pumps it back into the body. While there are other ECMO machines in the area, Community Regional has the only specialized team of highly skilled clinicians and resources to treat these patients who need ECMO as a last option for survival.
 
Over the next few weeks, it would be touch-and-go for Zapata, but she fought to hang on for her kids and family.