Pediatric ECMO Receives Platinum Level ELSO Award

L to R: Elise Emrath, M.D., Monika Cardona, R.N., MSN, Aaron Henderson, R.N., Elise Wainwright, R.N., Alicha Gibbs, R.N., Erin Glikes, R.N., Charles Garred, R.N., Laura Hollinger, M.D.

The Pediatric ECMO Program at the MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital received the platinum-level Award for Excellence in Life Support from the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization (ELSO), an international consortium of centers offering ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) for support of failing organ systems in infants, children and adults. This award is the highest attainable level of achievement an ELSO Center of Excellence can receive and recognizes select programs worldwide that have demonstrated the highest level of performance, innovation and quality in the delivery of extracorporeal life support. 

The pediatric ECMO program is one of eight children’s hospitals in the U.S. to achieve this recognition in 2020. It is one of only two pediatric programs in the Southeast and shares the honor with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston.  The MUSC pediatric ECMO program was previously designated an ELSO Center of Excellence, gold level, in 2017.

The ELSO Award for Excellence in Life Support signifies a commitment to exceptional patient care and an assurance of high-quality standards, specialized equipment and supplies, defined patient protocols and advanced education of all staff members.  

“It is an exceptional honor to receive this recognition,” said pediatric surgeon Laura Hollinger, M.D., medical director of the MUSC Pediatric ECMO Program. “It is a testament to the level of excellence of the multidisciplinary team of experts who provide ECMO support to our infants and children.”

The program’s team is comprised of pediatric surgeons, pediatric heart surgeons, pediatric cardiologists, neonatologists, pediatric critical care physicians, perfusionists, specially trained nurses and respiratory therapists. “The hallmark of this program is that we have this amazing pediatric service line complement that allows us to provide total care for our most critically ill children,” said Hollinger. “Our pediatric ECMO program is the epitome of multidisciplinary collaboration and speaks to the distinct advantage of having a designated children’s hospital with a team of specialists.”  

The goal of the pediatric ECMO program is to ensure outcomes remain excellent for these particularly vulnerable children, which the team strives to achieve through rigorous benchmarking, collegial support and unification through monthly case review conferences. 

Hollinger credits this award to the years of hard work by many pediatric specialists who care for these patients and to program manager Monika Cardona, R.N., MSN,  who joined the team in 2014, for spearheading the program. Recognized as an expert in her field, Cardona has more than 20 years of experience in caring for patients requiring ECMO support and programmatic development. 

 “Platinum designation by ELSO is an incredible honor that has been bestowed upon our program. With only 23 international ECMO programs receiving this elite designation, the work being done here at MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital in extracorporeal life support is now showcased worldwide,” said Cardona. “I am both humbled and honored to provide the programmatic oversight for our ECMO center and to be a part of this extraordinary team of clinicians as we care for these exceptional patients and their families.”

“At MUSC, we have always had exceptional pediatric providers as evidenced by our surgical critical care program designations, including an ACS-designated Level 1  pediatric trauma center, a gold-level ECMO Center of Excellence and  the Pediatric Burn Program” said pediatric surgeon Chris Streck, M.D., chief of the Division of Pediatric Surgery. “With the opening of the Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital this year, we have a brand new state-of-the-art facility to match the excellent quality of patient care and platinum-level ELSO award.” 

According to pediatric oncologist Michelle Hudspeth, M.D., director of the Division of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology, ECMO is a resource you hope never to have to utilize.

“However,” she added, “I am enormously grateful for the expertise of our team when our pediatric oncology patients need it.”Hudspeth shared her utmost praise for the team’s level of dedication and skill. “There really aren’t words to express my respect and gratitude when you watch Monika and her team, the pediatric surgeons and the pediatric intensive care physicians and nurses successfully place a patient on ECMO. This is as life and death as it gets – their work as a team is beautifully orchestrated when every second counts,” she explained.

“Their expertise shines, as our ECMO outcomes for pediatric oncology are far better than the national average, with 100% survival to discharge for the last seven years.”