Stories of the Heart: Dylan Collins

Maureen Robb's picture
By Maureen Robb on February 6, 2018

Dylan Collins and his family began their journey with a near-fatal car accident.

“I got a phone call, probably at 1:30 in the morning, from his dad,” said Kimberly Helmling, Dylan’s mother. He told her Dylan was in the hospital.

Dylan was on his way home after watching a football game when the accident happened. Now he wasn’t coherent and wasn’t talking.

After being airlifted to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, Dylan was treated for multiple injuries. He had a head injury and bleeding in his brain, multiple fractures in his back and a pelvic fracture.

When Kimberly got to the hospital, she saw that they’d placed him on a ventilator.

Over the next two weeks, Dylan developed pneumonia and was trending downward.

The doctors told Kimberly that Dylan’s “only chance” was ECMO.

Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, is a life-saving procedure used to provide oxygen to patients with severely damaged hearts or lungs. A patient is hooked up to an ECMO machine that provides life support by oxygenating his blood when his body no longer can.

“You can’t prepare yourself for it,” said Jason Helmling, Dylan’s stepdad. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

At Carilion, cardiothoracic surgeon William S. Arnold, M.D., managed Dylan’s ECMO procedures.

His parents were relieved. “We had heard how good he was,” said Kimberly. “You have to have a lot of faith in who’s taking care of your child.”

Slowly, Dylan began to recover from his multiple injuries.

And after 75 days in the hospital, he was discharged.

Today his mother is grateful to all the doctors, nurses, paramedics and others who played a part in his recovery.

“I’d like to thank everyone at Carilion for being there,” said Kimberly. “Everyone who had a hand in bringing Dylan back to what he is today.”

Dylan is also profoundly grateful. “I can never repay any of them for what they did,” he said.