WESLACO, Texas (ValleyCentral) —A local Marine veteran was hospitalized in Weslaco with COVID-19 when they told his family he needed a treatment to save his life, but it is not available in the Rio Grande Valley.
“They reached a point where they said there’s nothing else we can do here he needs to be intubated,” said Angie Gonzales, sister of Marine veteran Tony Gonzales.
Gonzales was transferred to the ICU in late July at Knapp Medical Center when doctors told his family he required extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) to survive.
“We were in dire need of getting him the assistance that he needed but that was not offered here, the Valley does not have an ECMO center, or ECMO treatment, or an ECMO machine,” said Angie Gonzales.
ECMO was available at the San Antonio Military Medical Center (SAMMC) in San Antonio where tony was taken by a Med-CareAir plane.
Cameron County Health Authority, Dr. James Castillo, said ECMO helps critical COVID-19 patients.
“You bring the blood out of the body you run it through this machine that puts oxygen into the blood and takes the carbon dioxide out and puts it back into the body it’s basically like an artificial lung,” said Castillo.
However, Gonzales’s family believes Tony was able to recover because the hospitals in San Antonio have more resources.
“The staff down here it’s just not enough and you know we need more resources,” said Monica Montañez, cousin of Tony Gonzales.
They have written letters to lawmakers and Governor Greg Abbott with hopes of saving others in need of more resources in the Valley.
“What can we do? Other than making sure that other people receive the resources that they need,” said Angie Gonzales.
The Gonzales family said that they have received several calls from Texas senators though no action has happened yet. Currently, Tony is in rehabilitation in San Antonio where he is making a recovery from COVID-19.
The South Texas Health Systems responded with the following regarding ECMO treatment coming in the near future
“There’s a growing need for the extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) service in the Rio Grande Valley. South Texas Health System currently works closely with physicians locally and hospitals outside of the region for cases requiring the procedure. As part of our commitment to technological advancements for better patient outcomes, South Texas Health System is developing a plan to offer the service within our healthcare system in the future.”South Texas Health System