Pa. hospital's ECMO team saves life of local nurse-turned-patient

Matteo Iadonisi Image
Sunday, July 2, 2023
Pa. hospital's ECMO team saves life of local nurse-turned-patient
Jenna Gresko, a local nurse, learned what it's like to be a patient when a rare condition nearly claimed her life after giving birth to her first child.

ABINGTON, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- "I was a healthy 29 year old, so it was expected to just have the baby and you know, go home," said Jenna Gresko, who is a registered nurse in the surgical ICU at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Center City.

Gresko delivered her baby closer to home at Jefferson Abington Hospital. Now, she is thanking that team for saving her life after giving birth to her first son, James.

"15 minutes after I delivered him, I started experiencing shortness of breath," she said. "My lips were turning blue and my oxygen level was dropping."

It was determined that Gresko had an amniotic fluid embolism. The unpredictable condition involving the liquid surrounding the uterus can lead to heart and lung failure and requires immediate medical attention.

Luckily for Gresko, the ECMO team had just finished training on emergency scenarios in a multidisciplinary simulation drill.

"At that time, we were just finishing our simulation for Code Blue ECMO, which is new to this hospital," said Dr. Nawar Al-Rawas, the Medical Director for ECMO services at Jefferson Abington Hospital.

It was a Saturday and Dr. Al-Rawas was attending a swimming pool with his children. When he got the call, he immediately rushed to her aid. But Gresko had grown more unstable.

"They couldn't even move her one floor to the cardiac surgery unit so we could put the ECMO in," he said. "So, we had to move the whole team downstairs with all the equipment."

The team, ready to respond to emergency situations 24/7 at Jefferson Abington Hospital, saved Gresko's life.

"It's like big equipment. There's a lot of things, so they were able to mobilize that to labor and delivery," Gresko recalled. "Thinking about it now, had they not done that, I may not be here right now."

Now, Gresko and her husband are enjoying raising their son, James, who is about 8 months old. She recently graduated from physical therapy, where she learned to regain mobility in the leg which she almost lost due to complications.

The Greskos are sharing their story in hopes to raise awareness for the existence of amniotic fluid embolisms and are extending their thanks to the nurses and doctors who saved her life.

To learn more about the ECMO team at Jefferson Abington Hospital, visit their website.

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