Health Matters: Texas man becomes Arkansas’ first ECMO COVID patient to survive


LITTLE ROCK, Ark- A Texas man is lucky to be alive after coming out of a coma, all while battling COVID-19.

“I can’t wait to see my family. My dogs,” says Martin Yepiz, ECMO COVID patient.

Martin Yepez of Paris, Texas came to Little Rock in November. The last thing he remembered was not being able to see.

“The only thing I know is when I stayed here, I see so many people and said what happened here you know?” explains Yepiz.

Yepiz woke up miles away at Baptist Health in Little Rock where doctors received a call about his condition. They learned he was in a coma, fighting the coronavirus and he wasn’t going to survive on a ventilator. Yepiz now needed an Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation or ECMO machine to save his life. Baptist Health was his only hope.

“The number of people on ventilators, more than half of those people are going to die. And these are a select group that we are able to take and half of those that we accept that we are able to allow them to live and get through this,” says Dr. John Ransom, Baptist Health Program Director of ECMO.

Yepiz was one of them. Unfortuantely, many patients in a similar situation are trying to find an ECMO program to get into as well.

“We’ve had patients from Alabama, several from Oklahoma, Texas, we’ve got a call as far away as Michigan. So the Covid ECMO programs are really to capacity,” says Dr. Ransom.

ECMO temporarily supports patients with severe conditions where the heart and lungs are too weak to function. Doctors used ECMO to pump blood out of Martin’s body and into the machine where it adds oxygen to the blood and removes carbon dioxide, then circulates the blood throughout the body.

Thomas Kasprowicz/Baptist Health MD
“He showed signs of promise and recovery.”

The therapy allows the heart and lungs to rest as the body works to heal. On Christmas day, Yepiz successfully got off ECMO and started therapy, all thanks to a group of doctors.

“It was a moment of celebration to be honest you know, because at that time we knew that things would go well,” says Thomas Kasprowicz, Baptist Health MD.

“I dreamed of this time,” says Yepiz.

Yepiz was discharged from the hospiatl as Arkansas’ first ECMO COVID patient to survive. It’s a huge achievement for everyone involved.

Dr. Ransom says there are not that many facilities in Arkansas that offer this kind of therapy to COVID patients. They’re trying to grow the hospital’s ECMO program and to treat as many people with the coronavirus as possible.

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