Extreme Measures

Staff at three Baylor Scott & White hospitals pulled out all the stops to save Alex's life.

In summer 2021, Alex Padilla and his family were all diagnosed with COVID-19. After about a week, his wife and children started feeling better, but Alex took a drastic turn for the worse.

“It was like he was panting in his sleep,” says Alex’s wife Holly. “His breathing was so erratic and I could hear a crackling in his lungs.”

Holly insisted Alex go to the emergency room at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Taylor, where doctors treated him for a blood clot in his lungs and worked for five days to stabilize his oxygen levels, with no success.

“When they reached the limit of what they could do, they didn’t think twice about having him transferred to Baylor Scott & White in Round Rock,” Holly says. “We are so grateful they are connected to this whole system of resources that saved his life.”

In Round Rock, Alex’s doctors recommended intubation and a ventilator to pump oxygen directly into his lungs.

“I was really scared at that point,” Alex says. “All I knew about intubation was what I had read—that many COVID patients who went on the ventilator didn’t make it. But they said I was running out of time and it would at least give me a chance.”

Even on a ventilator, Alex’s oxygen wouldn’t stabilize. After a week, he was transferred to Baylor Scott & White in Temple for ECMO therapy.

More on ECMO

  • The ECMO machine is one of the most difficult to master in the healthcare industry. It requires a specialized team and is very labor intensive.
  • One patient on ECMO requires two machines, one as primary and one as backup. 
  • Baylor Scott & White is working to bring ECMO services to our hospital in Round Rock.

Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation therapy, or ECMO, is the most intense version of life support available. “The ECMO machine essentially takes over while the heart or lungs are diseased,” says Chris Martin, ECMO program coordinator for Baylor Scott & White Medical Center - Temple. “It continuously removes blood from the body—up to seven liters a minute—filters out carbon dioxide, adds oxygen, and pumps it back in. ECMO is not a cure, but it does allow time for the patient to heal. It involves a lot of risk, so it is really the last step we can take to try to save someone’s life.”

Alex spent 29 days on ECMO to allow his lungs time to heal, experiencing a roller coaster of good days and bad days. When his oxygen levels finally began to stabilize, doctors began bringing Alex out of sedation. He was alive, but had a long journey ahead.

“When he woke up, he still had all these tubes and couldn’t talk,” Holly says. “He was so weak, he couldn’t even hold a pen to write me messages. He had lost a lot of muscle and basic skills and needed a lot of physical therapy.”

Soon, Alex was transferred to a long-term care facility in Temple for two weeks of physical therapy, followed by two months of at-home care.

“The ECMO therapy felt like a whirlwind compared to the long road to get him back to where he was before,” Holly says. “He was on an oxygen tank around the clock, and would still get out of breath and couldn’t do a lot on his own. While it was frustrating sometimes, we were definitely in good spirits because he was alive. I can’t believe he was so sick and is in the place he is now, even if he’s not totally
100 percent yet.”

Alex Padilla and his familyAlmost a year later, Alex has some remaining side effects from his experience, continues to use an oxygen tank at night, and has his oxygen levels read every
six weeks.

“I was in such bad shape, and honestly I cannot believe I made it through,” Alex says. “The staff at Baylor Scott & White saved my life. From Taylor to Round Rock to Temple, everybody took care of me so well. They’re my angels.”

“Everything they could possibly pull out of a hat, they did for him,” Holly says. “It’s such a blessing that they had so much to offer him. We are so grateful.”

Learn more about how you can help:

  • To support the ECMO program at Temple, contact Lori Luppino.
  • To help us bring ECMO services to our facility in Round Rock, contact Kassi Horner.


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