Heart-Lung Program Expands to Help More Kids

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Another medical program is expanding in Hawaii to help more local kids.

It's called ECMO and it helps babies who have heart or lung problems, like TJ Taeatafa who was born in 2003.

"They told us he wasn't able to breathe, they had used a ventilator. It was working for awhile, but then it stopped working," said Liliola Taeatafa, mother.

Doctors wanted to fly him to the Mainland to place him on an ECMO machine.

"And a lot of the challenges came from the delays that occurred in sending these babies to the Mainland," said Mark Ogino, director of Kaiser Neonatology.

TJ couldn't wait. So a medical team at Kaiser Permanente Hawaii built their own ECMO device which temporarily supports the heart and lungs.

"Thank you all because if not, my son wouldn't be here today. And even though he has side effects that cause him how to be how he is, I'm just grateful that he's here," said Taeatafa.

The program is expanding and in July will transfer to Kapiolani Medical Center. Sen. Dan Inouye helped the program by securing more than $7 million in federal funding.

It'll soon help others, like the Duarte family.

"We're enjoying every minute of it, chasing him around, spoiling him," said Thayne Duarte, whose son Kekoa, was placed on the device.

Some babies who used the machine didn't make it. But their families still support this program.

"We're grateful once again for the ECMO for giving us the opportunity to say hello to her, and to say goodbye to her," said Keoni Kamauoha, whose daughter Faith, died.

Doctors hope this move will give more local kids like TJ a better chance of survival.