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Advanced cardiac unit that offers ‘last chance at life’ expands at Florida Hospital

Chris Rodriguez was working as a deejay when his lungs failed. Doctors initially gave the 28-year-old no hope at recovery. 
 But that changed when he came to a specialized unit at Florida Hospital that offers life-support via the ECMO machine, which does what the lungs and heart cannot by pumping a patient’s blood outside their body, oxygenating it, and then filtering it back into the body.

Florida Hospital is the only provider in Central Florida to treat adults with ECMO, and today, the organization is expanding its specialized cardiac unit so up to 1,000 more people with advanced heart and lung problems can be treated each year.

Many of those patients will turn to ECMO.

“When someone’s heart or lungs fail, ECMO becomes their last chance at life,” said Dr. Scott Silvestry, surgical director of thoracic transplant a Florida Hospital. “There’s a growing need for this life-saving treatment, and that’s why this expansion is so important. We are privileged to provide this specialized care to our community and state.”

The ECMO machines — and the team of nurses and physicians specially trained to operate the devices — are housed within the cardiovascular intensive care unit at Florida Hospital Orlando. 

Because of the generous support of donors, Florida Hospital expanded this unit and created a new Advanced Cardiac Surgical Unit, which features eight new spacious rooms. 

The new unit — with rooms that are 40 percent larger than the previous — makes it easier for the clinical team to accommodate the large ECMO equipment, and to provide a better experience for patients and their families during their long hospital stay. The expansion also created a private family waiting room and additional work spaces for staff and physicians.

Patients are slated to move into the new unit this week.

Last year, the Advanced Cardiac Surgical Unit team cared for cared for hundreds of critically ill patients, including 95 on ECMO (which stands for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation), and dozens who received heart or lung transplants.

One of those patients was Rodriguez, who is recovering from a lung transplant and is doing well. 

“What the nurses and physicians do in this unit is amazing,” said Rodriguez. “There’s no way I can thank them enough for the way they cared for me and for my family.” 

For media inquiries only, call Florida Hospital Corporate Communications at 407-303-5950 or email