April 19, 2017

From the NICU to medical school: An ‘outrageous’ idea that’s saved thousands of babies

It took Robert Bartlett, M.D., and his colleagues more than a decade of persistent research before their lifesaving innovation reached patients such as Hannah Cheriyan

Dr. Robert Bartlett cloaks Hanna Cheriyan with her white coat

Hannah Cheriyan was born with her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. Just hours old and in respiratory distress, she was airlifted to the Newborn Intensive Care Unit at U-M’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

For four days, Cheriyan relied on a machine to perform the work of her heart and lungs, giving her lungs necessary time to heal. That machine, known as ECMO, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, saved her life.

Twenty-one years later, Cheriyan was at U-M again — this time walking the stage in the 2015 White Coat Ceremony, a ritual welcoming students into medical school. And Robert Bartlett, M.D., the Michigan doctor who devoted his career to developing ECMO, “cloaked” Cheriyan with her first official white coat.