The ECMO machine is a portable heart-lung bypass machine that pumps and oxygenates the patient’s blood, allowing the lungs and heart to rest. The flight in question transported a 56-year-old female patient, a citizen of South Korea, who was hospitalized in Hospital Muguerza in Monterrey, Mexico with lung failure due to pulmonary fibrosis (secondary to Covid-19). Life-saving lung transplantation in her homeland was the only viable option to save her life.
The flight originated in Monterrey International Airport, Mexico and concluded 6,500 miles away, and 21 hours later, at Inchon International Airport near Seoul, South Korea. The previous long-distance records for flying an adult patient on an ECMO machine were held by the US Air Force (Germany to the US and Japan to the US).
Carlos Salinas, Founder and CEO of Jet Rescue Air Ambulance, said: “Following extensive consultations with our Chief Flight Physician and the patient’s Cardiology team at Hospital Muguerza, I decided to accept this exceptionally challenging mission.”
“I had every confidence in our medical team, medical equipment and the aircraft. Our Learjet-36, long-range flying ICU, performed perfectly. We made fuel and oxygen stops in Vancouver in Canada, Anchorage in Alaska, Petropavlosk Kamalhalouskv in Russia, and finally landed – as planned and on time – at Inchon International Airport, South Korea.”
Dr Cervantes, the Chief Flight Physician of the company, added: “Clearly, this transport was one of the most challenging ever undertaken by any private air ambulance service. As a critical care physician, I was comfortable in our ability to execute this mission yet remained concerned because it was not possible to determine how the patient’s delicate hemodynamic condition would react during such a long flight.
“Nevertheless, thanks to exceptional collaboration with the transplant team in Hospital Muguerza in Monterrey and the professionalism of their ECMO staff, the patient remained stable throughout the long flight. I was relieved, and gratified, to hand over her care to the receiving hospital in Seoul.”