Big and Loving Dose of Personal Care for ECMO Patient

For more than two months, 19-year-old Alayna Turney’s view of the world extended no further than the walls of her room in the intensive care unit (ICU) at Seton Medical Center Austin.

SMCA Ecmo story

Alayna (in center) surrounded by her team of loving caregivers.

The young woman was transferred to Austin from San Angelo with an infection spreading throughout her body. Her condition quickly deteriorated, so her ICU team initiated Extracorporeal Oxygen Membrane Support (ECMO) therapy to remove her blood, oxygenate it and return the oxygenated blood to her body.

The bulky ECMO equipment confined Alayna to her bed and even blocked her views. To lift Alayna’s spirits and give her a sense of normalcy, her care team, led by Dr. Anna Dvorak, decided to take her on a “joy ride.”

In what can only be described as a herculean group effort, Seton physicians, ICU nurses, clinical assistants, physical therapists, occupational therapists, perfusionists, volunteers and security officers joined forces to get Alayna out of her room.

The first stop was the gift shop where mom Kim Turney treated her daughter to a few special items, including a vase, fingernail polish and some earrings to brighten her day.

Then the care team took Alayna outside to feel the breeze and the sun’s warmth on her face. Since Halloween was around the corner, associates played recordings of “Monster Mash” and “Thriller” on a boom box, dancing around until everyone was laughing.

Then it was back to the ICU – but fortunately, not for a lot longer.

After more than 90 days on ECMO, Alayna was successfully weaned off the therapy and transferred to the intermediate care (IMC) unit. Then, on December 8, 2015, she finally went home with her family.

Although Alayna’s “joy ride” may have been the most extraordinary example of the personal care that she experienced at Seton, the nurses who cared for her provided many more examples.

According to her mom, one nurse took time out of her day to pick up a special meal for Alayna at Galaxy Café. Another nurse held her hand through rough nights. One day a nurse brought in a favorite movie, while her night nurse brought Alayna a locket with a globe to represent her travels, a pizza slice to show that she will eat real food again and prayer hands to represent her faith.