There's a treatment for severe lung failure that many patients - and even some doctors - are not familiar with. Health reporter Erin Billups filed the following report.
Eric Long starting feeling sick just before his wedding rehearsal dinner. The next day he was diagnosed with pneumonia. After coughing up blood he went back to his pulmonologist.
"Next thing I know I was rushed to the emergency room and from there I woke up and I believe it was 18 days later, 16 days later and I had some stitches in my neck, open heart surgery, and I thought it was 2013," recalls Long.
Long's lungs had failed. The pneumonia also worsened a previously diagnosed issue with a heart valve. But the Staten Island hospital he was sent to was not equipped to handle the severity of his lung damage.
"When they called us, we were able to go over there, put him on the device out at his hospital, and then transport him safely back to Columbia," says Dr. Darryl Abrams, a Pulmonary Critical Care Doctor and ECMO Specialist at New York Presbyterian/Columbia Hospital.
The device, called ECMO, short for Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation, made it possible to move Long. It's basically an artificial lung.
"When the lung failure is so severe that the ventilator itself is not sufficient to support their oxygenation and their ventilation," Dr. Abrams explains. "This is where ECMO can come in and support gas exchange sufficiently to rest the lung, minimize the complications of the ventilator, treat the underlying illness, which in his case was pneumonia."
It also gave Long's body a chance to recover.
"I truly believe that if he didn't have that ECMO support initially, he would have been too sick to even survive the surgery that he also needed," says Dr. Abrams.
New York Presbyterian-Columbia has been using ECMO since the 70s. But now with a smaller transportable device and a team with extensive experience gained, in-part, during the 2009 avian flu epidemic, they're the go-to place.
Handling more than 200 cases last year, about half were transfers from other hospitals.
Long says he's grateful for the care and that his then fiancé Ashley was willing to put wedding thoughts aside to stay by his side.
"Going into it, marrying someone, you don't know if they'll be there through sickness and in health. And she was there before we even got married," says Long.
Shortly after he was discharged from the hospital the two finally made it down the aisle.