ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Taking the emergency room right to the patient, wherever they are. A new procedure done for the first time in Albuquerque is allowing first responders and E.R. doctors to do just that. A potentially life-saving procedure done in the back of an ambulance.

“At the point we do this, the patient, if we didn’t have this available, would be pronounced dead,” says Dr. Darren Braude.

Doctors at UNM Hospital, Albuquerque Ambulance Service staff, and Albuquerque Fire Rescue were able to treat a patient suffering from cardiac arrest last week using this portable machine called an ECMO.

“We’re then taking that group that we were ready to pronounce dead and giving them a 30% chance of surviving with their brain intact,” Braude says.

ECMO stands for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. The machine essentially does the work of the heart and lungs and is often used on patients who are in cardiac arrest.

In this case, the portable version of the life support system allowed first responders to execute a procedure normally done in a hospital, remotely. It was something that had never been done before in the U.S.

“Our ECMO program is a nationally recognized program here in the hospital, but we were able to bring this process outside the hospital and able to offer it now to people outside of a certain bubble of area around university hospital,” says Dr. Jon Marinaro.

Unfortunately, the patient in the case, 65-year-old Yvonne Cordova, did not survive. But her husband says the ECMO procedure gave her a fighting chance.

“I think any time that you can save your loved one and it increases the chances with this ECMO procedure, you have to go for it because time is critical in these situations,” says Joe Cordova.

AFR says it responds to about 600 cardiac arrest calls a year, Right now, only one AFR ambulance is equipped with an ECMO machine. It’s housed at Station 3 near UNMH.