Flu season is winding down, but recovery continues for some who caught it this year. Rita Berger almost died from complications of the flu.
Berger is at home recovering, but her family is thanking Parkview Hospital in a big way. The family, which owns Berger Auto Parts and Service, posted signs at the business locations thanking hospital staff. On the sign it thanks the ‘ECMO Team.’ Family said it’s the ECMO machine that saved Rita’s life.
Early this year Dan and Rita Berger were returning from seeing family in Wyoming. Rita started to get sick on the trip back, but once they were in Fort Wayne they thought normal life would continue. Dan Berger returned to work.
“I called her to see if she went to the doctor,” Berger said. “By then she was down to where she just whispered, and all I got out of here was the word hospital.”
Berger rushed his wife to the hospital where doctors immediately started tests. Within 24 hours, doctors reported Rita had multi-organ failure. She had the flu, pneumonia and septic shock.
Doctors gave her a 10 percent chance of surviving.
“I just hung my head down, and couldn’t believe what I was being told,” Berger said.
With her health rapidly declining, Rita was on 100 percent oxygen from a ventilator. Doctors at Parkview suggested one last option for her.
“[The doctor] said she would be a prime candidate for what we call ECMO,” Berger said.
“This is our ECMO machine or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation,” Dr. Joe Greenlee said.
“We have had some pretty miraculous saves from this machine,” Parkview Lead Nurse Stacey Seiler-Brown said.
Rita needed a miracle.
“Sometimes this is used in other facilities as a bridge to a transplant,” Parkview Perfusionist Josh Weigle said. “Sometimes it helps them get over a hump they need to get better.”
The ECMO pumped Rita’s heart and lungs to give them a break and let her body fight the blood infection. Less than a week later she was off the machine. More than a month after getting to the hospital Rita was released.
Her recovery continues with therapy, but the family wants everyone to know how thankful they are to Parkview. That’s the reason for the signs.
“I think all of us cried when we saw it,” Seiler-Brown said.
For Berger, the signs were a no brainer.
“Let everyone know who our heroes are,” Berger said.
Doctor said the ECMO machine is most used during flu season. They’re always encouraging people to get the flu shot. Rita did not get hers this year, and said she learned a tough lesson.