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Joey's Story

ONE OF OUR EARLY ECMO SUCESSES

(In the picture (from left to right): John Fritsch (PACF perfusionist), the 7-pound wide mouth bass, and one of our heroes, Joey Zaciewski)

 

In 2010, twenty-year old Joey Zaciewski was a senior at Full Sail University with his entire future ahead of him. Then in June he contracted a virus that landed him in Florida Hospital Winter Park with a diagnosis of viral pneumonia.  The infection progressed and developed into viral endocarditis. Within hours of the endocarditis diagnosis, he arrested.

 

After ninety minutes of compression, the physician was ready to call it. Then he realized the newly opened Florida Hospital Orlando heart transplant center might be the Joey’s best hope. The Florida Hospital Orlando team, along with Perfusion Associates of Central Florida team member, John Fritsch, traveled to Florida Hospital Winter Park to initiate VA ECMO and transport Joey back to the Florida Hospital Orlando Heart Transplant Center.

When Joey arrived at the Florida Hospital Orlando campus, he was in fulminating pulmonary edema, bilateral heart failure, liver and kidney failure, and DIC. He endured multiple surgeries including VAD placement. Progress was slow, but after 2 months he was up for multiple daily walks.

Joey remained at Florida Hospital for another month. During his stay, our PACF team developed close bonds with Joey and his family. Our team members, John Fritsch, was instrumental in boosting the morale of the twenty-year old who had been confined for months to the hospital unit. 

John, an offshore charter boat captain in his free time, shared with Joey a love for fishing. Along with the Florida Hospital team and several local vendor sponsors, John was able to arrange an outing which included a picnic and a day of fishing. Since Joey was still a VAD patient, the excursion occurred on the dock of Florida Hospital’s nearby lake.  The excursion was replete with a meal of the twenty-year old's favorite foods and of course the reeling in of the 7 pound wide mouth bass.

Unfortunately, Joey’s heart transplant surgeon passed away suddenly just before Joey’s LVAD was due to be explanted. This meant that the LVAD explantation could not be done  at Florida Hospital. It was determined that the best course of action was for the procedure to be done by the University of Michigan team after Joey's return to his home in Ohio. To ensure Joey's safe arrival in Ohio, John accompanied Joey on his flight home.

Joey made a full recovery and in August of the following year, he returned to Orlando and completed his degree at Full Sail University. Today he is living an active life that might otherwise have been cut short by the deadly infection.

 

 

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