Tara Dolittle

36-year-old Tara Doolittle had always been relatively healthy so when she started feeling sick a few days before Thanksgiving, she thought it was just a typical cold. She ultimately developed a fever and at that time saw her personal physician. She was diagnosed with a sinus infection, prescribed antibiotics and returned home.

However, in the days that followed, Tara’s health began to significantly decline. She became more short of breath and being a nurse herself, recognized the need for further medical attention and went to an emergency room near her home. At that time she was diagnosed with double pneumonia and was admitted to the hospital. Despite aggressive medical care, including being put on a breathing machine (ventilator), Tara continued to deteriorate. Tara was unable to maintain sufficient oxygenation and her physician felt that the only thing that may save Tara’s life would be ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation).

ECMO is a cutting edge technology that serves to temporarily replace the function of the heart or lungs, while treating the underlying condition. During ECMO, the patient’s blood is pumped into an artificial lung (oxygenator) that adds oxygen and removes carbon dioxide before sending the blood back to the patient via a pump. Ocala Regional Medical Center is the only hospital in Marion and Citrus Counties to offer this lifesaving technology, so Tara was transferred to Ocala Regional Medical Center. Given Tara’s grave condition, the ECMO team at Ocala Regional Medical Center which comprised of a cardiothoracic surgical team, critical care physicians, perfusion and specially trained ECMO nursing specialists, provided round-the-clock EMCO support to Tara for approximately one week, allowing her respiratory infection to be treated and the return of her lung function.

After discontinuation of ECMO, Tara continued to improve daily and was discharged to home several days later. Tara and her husband Mike welcomed a baby girl to their family of three boys just four months before this health episode. She says she is so thankful for the team at Ocala Regional Medical Center for saving her life so that she can watch her children grow up.