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Central Texas mom in need of ECMO machine while battling pneumonia

A local elementary teacher and mom needs support from the community, specialty doctors and hospitals to save her life.

AUSTIN, Texas — Kristen Hartman, a 42-year-old mom, wife and teacher at Bluebonnet Elementary School in Lockhart, is in the biggest fight of her life. 

"It was hard at first, but being able to go and look into the window and see her, it's soothing to me personally," said James Radabaugh, Hartman's brother.  

Hartman is currently in the ICU at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital in San Marcos. The elementary school teacher is on a ventilator due to pneumonia that was brought on after having COVID-19.  

"They will flip her onto her stomach and then back – stomach, back – for 12-hour periods. They call that proning," said Radabaugh.  

If Hartman doesn't progress, her family was told the next option for recovery is a life-support technology called extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO. 

"We've never heard of it before, and the doctor did say that it's kind of a hard list to get on because you have to qualify for it. There's not very many hospitals that have it," said Radabaugh.  

ECMO is used for COVID-19 patients with severe respiratory distress. 

"It makes a world of difference. I mean, you're talking about giving someone a second chance of life," stated Omar Hernandez with Medical City Healthcare.

The ECMO machine stabilizes patients, to give their body more time to fight a virus. However, Hartman's current hospital does not have ECMO available for her.

Radabaugh mentioned his sister's doctor has taken the steps to put Hartman's information out there as a candidate for the specialized treatment. The next step is for one of the surrounding hospitals to accept her into their care for ECMO treatment. 

In recent data, Dell Children's, Ascension Seton and Baylor Scott & White Medical Center have confirmed they are supplied with ECMO life support for patients. Unlike ventilators that come in large supply, ECMO machines are sparse. 

Radabaugh and his family now await results to see if Hartman's health progresses or if doctors will need to transfer her to a hospital with ECMO. 

In the meantime, Hartman's husband is also hospitalized down the hall, battling double lung pneumonia. Their family has put together a GoFundMe to help with medical expenses.

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