Young woman hospitalized for flu complications says this machine - WSMV News 4

Young woman hospitalized for flu complications says this machine saved her life

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Dr. Ashok Babu is cardiologist with St. Thomas Health. Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, is a mechanical circulatory system that temporarily provides cardiac support until the patient recovers. Dr. Ashok Babu is cardiologist with St. Thomas Health. Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, is a mechanical circulatory system that temporarily provides cardiac support until the patient recovers.
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

It has been a deadly flu season in Tennessee and across the United States. 

Ten children and a pregnant woman, have died so far this year in Tennessee.

Across the nation, 97 pediatric flu deaths have been reported since Oct. 2017. 

While most who get the flu do not become critically ill, some still end up in the hospital due to complications and infections.

One young woman in Nashville nearly died from such complications.

“I don't even remember driving to the hospital," said 25-year-old Jessica Rozzo. "It took me two weeks to remember that." 

Rozzo spent 35 days in the hospital after suffering complications from the flu. She received a tracheotomy and was hooked up to this machine called an ECMO, which she credits with saving her life. 

'Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, is a mechanical circulatory system that temporarily provides cardiac support until the patient recovers.

“We placed her on the machine and immediately her levels got better," said Dr. Ashok Babu, a cardiologist at St. Thomas Health. "The main idea is this can support the body until the patient's own lungs recover."

St. Thomas Health has seen seven flu patients that needed to be hooked up to the ECMO machine this year. 

Dr. Babu says with so many severe cases just over halfway into flu season, the machine will likely still be needed for future cases. 

“There's no question, the group of people we placed on ECMO could not have survived without it,” Babu said. “The younger, more robust people have a stronger immune system and when they get the flu, they develop an inflammatory injury where their body attacks the lungs.”

Dr. Babu says the majority of patients with flu complications are in their 40s and 50s. However, Babu says there is a subset of patients in their 20s and 30s whose conditions are so severe that the ECMO is needed to keep them alive.

In early January, News4 reported this year's flu season is hitting young adults especially hard. Doctors say they are less likely to get vaccinated and are always on the go.

Jessica Rozzo says she was clearly one of those cases.

“I had worked, drove all the way to Florida without sleeping,"  Rozzo explained. "I didn't sleep the night before [and] was in Florida for two days, drove all the way back [and] went to work."

Not to mention, Rozzo said she did not get a flu shot this year. 

Despite reports that the flu shot is only 36 percent effective this year, doctors still recommend that everyone gets vaccinated. Even if you do get the flu, doctors say the cases are milder, which is important with a deadly flu strain floating around. 

Today, Rozzo is still not 100-percent healthy, but she was happy to be reunited with the staff that helped nurse her back to recovery.


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