ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Doctors weren’t sure it would work, but they knew they had to try a risky treatment to save a baby’s life. The survival of that 13-month-old may help other babies battling COVID.

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A COVID diagnosis right before Christmas, and 13-month-old Matteo Baca’s symptoms were only getting worse. Shannarose Martinez says Matteo’s positive COVID test came as a shock – their family is all vaccinated and they stayed away from large crowds.

“All of a sudden, there was five doctors in the room and I remember just looking at Matteo like… is this the last time I”m going to see your eyes open? Is this the last time I’m going to hold you?” Martinez said. “I possibly thought he had RSV. I never thought he would’ve had COVID.”

After days of constant fever, exhaustion, and worsening cough, Martinez took her baby to the University of New Mexico Hospital. He was quickly transferred to the pediatric intensive care unit. “I remember him crying and him saying, ‘mama, mama’ and it was the most heartbreaking thing I’ve ever had to witness,” Martinez said.

UNMH doctors say Matteo needed help breathing and ultimately determined he needed the highest level of life support for babies experiencing heart and lung failure which is in short, called ECMO. “I remember Dr. Browman coming in and she was like it’s time we put him on ECMO, and I remember telling her I don’t want to do this and she was like, if we don’t do it, he has a 50/50 chance of surviving,” Martinez said.

His chance of surviving without an ECMO was even worse and those statistics were enough to convince Martinez. For the first time in New Mexico, doctors hooked a baby up to an ECMO machine to treat COVID. It acts as an exterior heart and set of lungs both cleaning his blood and breaking for him.

“It was almost like his body was at rest. Everything was working for him, it was just, he finally had that chance to just relax,” Martinez said.

Over the course of nine days, the ECMO helped Matteo’s organs recover from COVID. Matteo got to go home right after Christmas and his successful ECMO treatment could help save more lives. “I”m just so thankful that we were the ones to do it because now he has the possibility of saving another child’s life,” Martinez said.

A Venmo account, @MatteoStrong, is accepting donations to help the family with medical expenses, Martinez says.