Boy suffers cardiac arrest from flu symptoms; machine saves life


AUSTIN (KXAN) – Owen Coulter is your average four-year-old boy.

He loves legos and takes every opportunity to blast his brother with a nerf gun.

Two weeks before Christmas, however, Coulter came home from preschool complaining that he had a headache and felt pain in his arms and legs.

The next day, his parents noticed his feet and ankles began turning purple. On the way to Dell Children’s Medical Center, Owen began to suffer cardiac arrest and he was immediately taken to the emergency room. 

Owen’s mom, Kristen, said she did what any mother would do in that situation and prayed for her son’s recovery.

Owen’s father, Darin, is an Austin firefighter who’s seen his fair share of emergencies. However, this time, he was on the other side.

Coulter said things escalated very quickly once they got to the hospital. 

“He said he had to go to the bathroom and the next thing you know, he’s coded,” Coulter said.

Owen ended up coding five times in the emergency room and his body was limiting blood flow to major organs.

Doctors decided to put him on a heart and lung bypass machine called ECMO, which stands for Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation. The machine allowed his blood to keep circulating while his heart recovered from being resuscitated.

Dr. Coburn Allen from Dell Children’s Medical Center says putting a child on ECMO is not something that happens routinely. There are very few cases of it ever happening.

For the Coulter family, they’re just thankful this life-saving machine was available at the perfect time.

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