Local doctor gets rarely used life-saving treatment for COVID-19

Ari Hait

Paul Laroche doesn’t just love his older brother, Vladimir.He admires him.“My brother, he’s a great guy,” Paul said. “He’s always been the guy who’s ready to jump at the first opportunity to help.”As a doctor, helping is exactly what he did as cases of COVID-19 began to spread across South Florida.Vladimir continued to see patients at a clinic in West Palm Beach.“That’s how he contracted the virus,” Paul said.Vladimir tested positive for COVID-19 and checked into Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center on April 1.Within a few days, he was on a ventilator and getting much worse.Paul admitted he started thinking about his brother’s funeral.“My own fears were one thing, because I was really afraid that this could be it,” he said.Then last week, the hospital received a new tool in this fight, a tool no other hospital in Florida has.It’s called the Hemolung Respiratory Assist System.“That’s been a game changer,” Paul said.Dr. Ribal Darwish calls the Hemolung “an additional artificial lung.”Darwish is the medical director of critical care at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center.He said the Hemolung removes carbon dioxide from the blood and replaces it with oxygen.Essentially, it’s dialysis for the lungs.“This device allows the gas exchange to happen while we’re providing what we call lung protection,” Darwish said.And that protection allows the lungs to rest and heal.Darwish said the Hemolung has done wonders for Vladimir’s condition, to the point doctors are hoping to soon wean him off his ventilator.“It’s probably made his condition a lot easier to be treated,” Paul said. “So yeah, I can say that it’s a life safer.”The issue with the Hemolung is it’s currently not approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration.The FDA is currently allowing its use only for patients with a severe case of COVID-19 and is requiring specific approval for each patient.Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center has two Hemolungs.The plan is to soon begin using the second machine on a new patient, hoping for similar results to what they’ve seen with Vladimir Laroche.

Paul Laroche doesn’t just love his older brother, Vladimir.

He admires him.

“My brother, he’s a great guy,” Paul said. “He’s always been the guy who’s ready to jump at the first opportunity to help.”

As a doctor, helping is exactly what he did as cases of COVID-19 began to spread across South Florida.

Vladimir continued to see patients at a clinic in West Palm Beach.

“That’s how he contracted the virus,” Paul said.

Vladimir tested positive for COVID-19 and checked into Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center on April 1.

Within a few days, he was on a ventilator and getting much worse.

Paul admitted he started thinking about his brother’s funeral.

“My own fears were one thing, because I was really afraid that this could be it,” he said.

Then last week, the hospital received a new tool in this fight, a tool no other hospital in Florida has.

It’s called the Hemolung Respiratory Assist System.

“That’s been a game changer,” Paul said.

Dr. Ribal Darwish calls the Hemolung “an additional artificial lung.”

Darwish is the medical director of critical care at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center.

He said the Hemolung removes carbon dioxide from the blood and replaces it with oxygen.

Essentially, it’s dialysis for the lungs.

“This device allows the gas exchange to happen while we’re providing what we call lung protection,” Darwish said.

And that protection allows the lungs to rest and heal.

Darwish said the Hemolung has done wonders for Vladimir’s condition, to the point doctors are hoping to soon wean him off his ventilator.

“It’s probably made his condition a lot easier to be treated,” Paul said. “So yeah, I can say that it’s a life safer.”

The issue with the Hemolung is it’s currently not approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA is currently allowing its use only for patients with a severe case of COVID-19 and is requiring specific approval for each patient.

Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center has two Hemolungs.

The plan is to soon begin using the second machine on a new patient, hoping for similar results to what they’ve seen with Vladimir Laroche.


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