Dallas surgeons save woman's life after COVID-19 causes heart failure

A San Antonio woman who nearly died of COVID-19 credits a specialized team of Dallas surgeons, doctors, and nurses for saving her life.

The South Texas woman says she was active and healthy before getting COVID-19 and was suddenly struck so hard by the virus that doctors say she would have died if not for a highly specialized team that was able to fly to her to save her life.

64-year-old Mary Mariner says she had no pre-existing conditions before getting COVID-19.

“After not seeing family for months, we decided to get together on a Monday,” she said.

That was in August. Two days after seeing her sister, her sister tested positive. About nine days after their visit, Mary started to have symptoms. And just two days later, she was at death's door.

“We've been married 40 years. I’ve never seen her incapacitated,” said her husband, Larry Mariner. “She was unable to walk, hold her hand above her head, couldn't get dressed, moaning.”

Larry called 911. COVID had gone straight for her heart.

The hospital recommended her for ECMO, a device that pumps oxygen bypassing a patient's heart and lungs.

“The Local ECMO team deemed her too high risk of a candidate to perform surgery on,” said Stacy White, Mary’s daughter.

That's when Mary's daughter, who’s a lung transplant nurse at Baylor Scott and White, called Dr. Gary Schwartz who she works with on lung transplants.

“He answered his phone on a Saturday evening with his family,” White said. “He was not on call. Within a moment's notice, he was able to coordinate all efforts that led to saving my mom's life.”

Dr. Schwartz is the director of the ECMO program at Baylor.

“She was in profound heart failure when we got the call about her. I thought sure her mortality is high, but I think we can save her,” he said. “We deployed our team to fly there, put her on ECMO there and fly her back to our center, which is where she recovered.”

Without that, Dr. Schwartz is certain Mary wouldn’t have survived.

“I'm fairly certain of that,” he said.

Now, Mary and her family want others to know about Baylor’s ECMO team. 

Just months after the pandemic began, Baylor's ECMO team established safety protocols to be able to treat COVID-19 patients.

The ECMO team has treated 50 COVID patients. The vast majority of them have been for lung failure.

More Info: bswhealth.com/locations/dallas/specialties/lung-care/thoracic-surgery/extra-corporeal-membrane-oxygenation