Where Discovery Creates Hope

Medical School

Return to top of page
Top quote Top quote

A monthly series:

Where Discovery Creates Hope

Andrew’s story: A second chance where once there was none.

Andrew Lund was just 26 when his heart suddenly stopped beating at a family gathering. Paramedics, taking over for a Good Samaritan on the scene, tried restarting it with electric shock (defibrillation). Once, twice – seven times in all.

There was one last hope, a trip to M Health Fairview and a doctor with expertise in resuscitation medicine and a technology that’s a real game-changer for cardiac arrest patients.

Four days later, Andrew came to: “Imagine waking up in a room, not knowing how you got there, but all of your family and friends are there. Cheering.”

Watch Andrew's Story

Throwing a lifeline

“That life that has stopped, has been broken, can now be put back together again because of what our team does,” says Dr. Tolar.

Introducing the world’s first portable version of an Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) machine. It takes the place of your heart and lungs, buying precious time for doctors to bring you back to life.

The technology has been around for a while, but the team in the Medical School, with generous funding from the Helmsley Charitable Trust, made it mobile and packaged it to fit in a fleet of cars.

In just four years, the team and its 20-pound hero are changing the odds of surviving cardiac arrest.

“Cardiac arrest is the most time-sensitive emergency in medicine,” says Dr. Yannopoulos. “We have effectively treated about 240 patients and more than 110 patients are alive today – that’s 110 people who would not be alive without this.”

Andrew Working

Just the beginning

The team, at the U of M, has added three more ECMO-equipped SUVs to its fleet and is training teams of dedicated physicians to operate them.

They’ve also created a non-profit company – the Minnesota Mobile Resuscitation Consortium – and assembled an unprecedented partnership of healthcare systems under it.

That allows the team of two physicians and a paramedic to meet the incoming patient in outlying emergency rooms, putting this lifesaving medicine within reach of 60 percent of the population in Minnesota.

For people living outside the metro area, there are plans and funding for two large trucks equipped with ECMO and other medical devices – making them, in effect, mobile emergency rooms.

There’s a saying that you should never be friends with your patients,” says Dr. Yannopoulos, who calls every one of his just that. “But we strongly believe that that’s the only way to fight for them.”

“Our hope is that we’re never needed. With a couple of shocks, they get pulses. But when this doesn’t happen, we’re there to throw them a life line.”

Doctors Talking

Feeling blessed

Andrew is fully recovered, working now as a dentist practicing at Duren Family Dental in Burnsville. Doctors discovered – and repaired – the genetic defect that caused his heart to stop. He has an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, as a safety net, but no restrictions. In fact, he was cliff jumping not long after and “nothing happened.”

“I feel like I got a second chance,” Andrew says. “I didn’t realize how good my life was…I’m not afraid of death. But I am afraid of what it would do to my family. This was really tough on them.”

ECMO is also being used to treat patients with COVID-19. M Health Fairview’s first COVID-19 patient – young and otherwise healthy – was put on ECMO as a lifesaving measure. The patient’s lungs were stiff and filled with fluid. Since ventilators work by pushing air with a higher oxygen level with the pressure to inflate the lungs and oxygenate the blood, it was not an option. There was nowhere for the air to go. ECMO was used to oxygenate the blood while bypassing the lungs until they could heal. It worked, and the patient was eventually able to go home. This patient was the first in the U.S. to survive and be able to discontinue ECMO.

ECMO Vehicle

Science of Mobile ECMO

The heart pumps oxygenated blood to all parts of the body. When the heart stops, blood circulation stops, and the lack of oxygen causes damage to cells, tissues, and organs.
Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) uses a machine to do the work of the heart and lungs.
Blood from the patient’s body is circulated through a membrane that removes carbon dioxide waste and adds oxygen. The oxygenated blood is pumped back under pressure to keep it moving through the whole body.
Minutes without oxygen make the difference between life and death for people in cardiac arrest. Even with ongoing CPR, survival often depends on getting quickly to a hospital with the technology to provide ECMO.
Mobile ECMO, which uses a portable device transported in an emergency vehicle, takes this technology to the patient. As this program grows, ECMO will become available to more people in more locations across the state.
The next step in the project is a self-contained truck that brings ECMO technology directly to the patient.

Andrew Lund


Andrew is a dentist practicing at Duren Family Dental in Burnsville. “Life is very fragile,” Andrew says. “I have a pretty solid faith that I’m here for more of a bigger reason and I look forward to that.”

Dr. Jakub Tolar

Dr. Jakub Tolar

Dean of the University of Minnesota Medical School

“I started my practice in intensive care medicine 20 years ago. We used to have a machine like this for premature babies but it was as big as a room.”

Dr. Katie Cullen

Dr. Demetri Yannopoulos

Medical Director for the Department of Resuscitation at the University of Minnesota

Editing a book on cardiopulmonary resuscitation in medical school, he realized: “That I wanted to try and solve the mystery of sudden death.”



University of Minnesota Campus Public Health Office

Center for Resuscitation Medicine

Mobile ECMO




For emergency responders: LifeLink III ECMO Activation Line:

American Heart Association:

420 Delaware Street SE | Minneapolis, MN 55455