On February 24, 2020, an expert from the World Health Organization said in an interview: “If I contract new coronary pneumonia, I hope to be treated in China. Because there are five ECMOs in a Chinese hospital.”
The new coronavirus causes extensive inflammation and severely interferes with the patient’s breathing; and ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Pulmonary Oxygenation) is equivalent to a mechanical lung that can bypass the lungs and give the patient a little fresh air. Therefore, it is hailed as the patient’s “last straw”.
The person who invented ECMO is called John Gibbon. There are four generations of Yoshimoto’s family, all of whom are famous doctors. If they are infected with flu at a family party, it will affect the ranking of the hospital’s strength…
If you go down the path of your fathers, Yoshimoto should enter the hospital to be a doctor, but unfortunately accidents will always come first. On October 3, 1930, 27-year-old Yoshimoto met a patient. The patient developed a clot in the body after the gallbladder was removed. The blood clot ran into the lungs along with the blood circulation, blocking the blood vessels like an embolus.
Under the medical conditions at that time, surgery was necessary to save this patient, but it had to be very fast. Yoshimoto’s instructor has a pair of amazing hands, and within a few minutes, he completed the operation of cutting the blood vessel, removing the thrombus, and suture the blood vessel.
But the patient is still dead. The patient struggled violently, but his face was blue but he couldn’t breathe. Such a scene circling in Yoshimoto’s mind for a long time led him to an idea: use a machine to make a lung to help the patient breathe! Everyone thought he was crazy. But Yoshimoto couldn’t forget the face that was desperate for oxygen.
In 1934, in the Bovinci Building at Massachusetts General Hospital, Yoshimoto began planning for the manufacture of lungs. The principle of the artificial lung is not complicated to say: cut the blood vessel of the patient, draw the blood out of the catheter, inject oxygen into the blood, let the carbon dioxide in the blood be released, and then send it back to the patient. It is difficult to do it: the blood flow out too fast, the patient will die; the oxygen injection rate is not enough, the patient will die; the blood clot produces a thrombus, or the presence of air bubbles causes the air embolism.
There are too many engineering problems in artificial lung research. Yoshimoto seized every opportunity to ask others for help. He kept thinking and learning. He went to second-hand stores in Boston to find cheap and available items.
The hardest part is how to inject enough oxygen into the blood. It took four years from the idea of making artificial lungs to the formulation of a feasible plan. It took another year from the formal start of research to the production of a prototype. After not knowing how many times the experiment, Yoshimoto finally completed a successful experiment in 1935. It didn’t take long before the outbreak of the Second World War, Yoshimoto joined the army, and the artificial lung experiment was forced to stop.
When he returned to the school with the rank of colonel, someone introduced Yoshimoto and the president of IBM, and Yoshimoto brought back a large number of outstanding engineers from IBM. Relying on continuous improvement, on May 6, 1953, and also after 23 years of determination to study artificial lungs, Yoshimoto finally successfully performed a human operation with ECMO.
Yoshimoto did not rely on ECMO to make a penny, or even thought about it. On February 5, 1973, when he had a heart attack while playing tennis, Yoshimoto left the world forever. But his invention has been left behind and has been helping the most critically ill patients.