MEDFORD — A Medford woman critically ill with swine flu was en route by ambulance late Wednesday evening from a Medford hospital to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland to be placed on a special life-saving oxygenation machine.
She was the second patient sent from Medford on Wednesday to Emanuel to be hooked to an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machine, which provides both cardiac and respiratory support oxygen to patients whose heart and lungs are so severely diseased or damaged that they can no longer function.
Jacquelyn Cordero's critical illness is the third tragedy to strike the extended family in a little more than a month.
Her uncle, Sgt. Tom Rollason, 43, of Medford, was critically wounded Sept. 20 by an improvised explosive device while in a truck convoy near Kandahar, Afghanistan. The soldier, whose wife, Sandee, is Johnny Cordero's sister, is in Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
A day after the sergeant was injured by the roadside bomb, his father, Thomas F. Rollason, 67, died after a long battle with cancer in North Versailles, Pa.
No ECMOs are available in Jackson or Josephine counties.
Jacquelyn Cordero, 30, daughter of Johnny and Carolyn Cordero, was accompanied by a six-member Emanuel emergency medical team when she was taken from Rogue Valley Medical Center. Johnny Cordero is pastor of the Lamb's Home Fellowship in Medford.
An Oregon Army National Guard Blackhawk helicopter flew the Emanuel emergency medical team to Medford Tuesday night in preparation for the transfer.
Although RVMC officials would not divulge the patient's name, citing privacy concerns, they noted the patient has been diagnosed with the H1N1 virus. Her name was provided by family and friends who have established the Jacquelyn Cordero Medical Fund at the Bank of America.
Jacquelyn Cordero, who has no health insurance, has been in the hospital since early last week, and most of that in the intensive care unit, according to family members.
"The patient is being transported to Emanuel for rescue therapy," explained Dr. Ilana Porzecanski, a doctor of internal medicine who is an intensivist at RVMC. "I wouldn't be sending her unless I thought it was the only chance to get her through this."
Emanuel has six ECMOs, including two that are used in neonatal intensive care.
A van accompanied the ambulance to Portland. The group was scheduled to make stops in Roseburg, Eugene and Salem for oxygenation for the patient, the doctor said.
Although most people getting the swine flu don't get as sick as the patient sent to Emanuel, the illness should not be taken lightly, Porzecanski said, noting that another patient with H1N1 was sent to Emanuel early Wednesday.
"If it is possible, everyone should consider getting a vaccination (for H1N1)," Porzecanski said. "People we've been seeing who are the most ill are in their 20s and 30s."
However, the most susceptible are pregnant women, the obese and those with pre-existing medical conditions, officials said.
"For most people, I would just encourage them to stay home and away from emergency medical departments unless they have trouble breathing," Porzecanski said of those who come down with the H1N1 virus.
Flying the medical team down from Portland is part of the emergency services the Guard offers statewide, although the request usually is from a county rather than a hospital, according to Guard spokesman Capt. Stephen Bomar in Salem. Emanuel had made the request for the transfer because no LifeFlight helicopters were available at the time, he said.
"If we have a helicopter available, we will do it," he said, noting the Blackhawk left Salem at 6 p.m., picked up the medical crew in Portland and flew south to Medford, he said.
"They dropped the team and equipment off and were back in Salem shortly after 11 p.m. (Tuesday)," he said, adding the flight was funded by the Guard's training budget, which requires the helicopter crew to train so many hours a month.
No one from Jackson County diagnosed with the H1N1 flu has died from the virus. However, a young man from Klamath County with pre-existing health problems died in Medford in July after he was diagnosed with the swine flu. A 41-year-old woman died of the swine flu in Grants Pass last week, according to a spokesman for the hospital in Grants Pass. Test results confirmed she had the H1N1 virus.
State health officials say 239 Oregonians have been hospitalized for influenza since Sept. 1.
Friends of Jacquelyn Cordero can leave messages for her at www.caringbridge.org/visit/jacquelyncordero/journal.
Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at email@example.com.