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Staff and physicians gathered outside the Regional Rehab Centre at the Hamilton General Hospital site to bid a warm farewell to Mike VanNetten, seen here leaving with his wife Sarah.
June 30, 2021

COVID patient treated with the most aggressive form of life support released from Hamilton General Hospital

HAMILTON, ON – On Wednesday, June 30, Mike VanNetten was released from the Hamilton General Hospital (HGH) after spending several months in the intensive care unit with COVID-19. Mike was put on an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine, which is an artificial heart-lung bypass machine reserved for some of the sickest patients who are in severe cardiac or respiratory failure.

“The care Mike has received is beyond anything I have ever experienced,” says Mike’s wife, Sarah VanNetten. “The healthcare team takes care of their patients, but they address the care of their loved ones as well. They are angels in scrubs.”

Several Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) nurses, physicians and other health care staff were present to say goodbye to Mike – a chicken farmer from Norfolk County – and wish him well as he walked out of the hospital.

“Mike and his family are wonderful, and we are very happy that he is able to go home,” says Dr. Craig Ainsworth, cardiologist and intensivist at the HGH. “Mike is a true success story with ECMO in COVID patients. The staff and physicians who cared for Mike and patients like him work very hard every day for moments like this.”

At 45, Mike is one of COVID-19’s younger victims. Sarah says the family is unsure how Mike could have contracted COVID-19. On April 3, Mike was experiencing cold-like symptoms. By April 8, he had developed chills and a fever, and had a persistent cough. Although Mike is usually one to tough it out when he has an ailment, his wife urged him to go to hospital. By April 10, Mike was on a ventilator at Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington. On April 13 he was air lifted to HGH where he was put on the ECMO machine.

HHS, which is one of only four hospitals in Ontario to provide ECMO care, introduced the life-saving machine early in 2020. Considered a last-resort treatment, ECMO has been used successfully at HHS for critically ill COVID-19 patients. The ECMO machine replaces the function of the patient’s own lungs by pumping blood from the patient’s body to an artificial lung (oxygenator) that adds oxygen to it and removes carbon dioxide.

“ECMO is the most aggressive form of life support in an intensive care unit, and it requires a whole team of trained health care workers. They are required to constantly monitor and respond to these patients through the course of their time on the machine,” says Dr. Faizan Amin, medical director of the HHS ECMO program. “Having ECMO in Hamilton is allowing us to serve the most critically ill patients in our region.”

For more information on Mike VanNetten’s story and the ECMO program, please visit https://www.hamiltonhealthsciences.ca/share/angels-in-scrubs-ecmo/.

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Video of Mike VanNetten leaving the hospital

Photos of Mike VanNetten leaving the hospital

For more information, please contact:

Wendy Stewart
Communications & Public Affairs
Hamilton Health Sciences