Children's expertise helps 16-year-old beat the odds and recover from a horrific crash

186669-1Alan Moos at Children’s one month after his accident.

In February, after being unconscious for more than six weeks, 16-year-old Alan Moos woke up in a hospital bed at Children's – Minneapolis. "The first thing I remember saying was, 'What am I doing here?'" Alan recalled.

Little did Alan know the more appropriate question might have been "How fortunate am I to be here?"

On January 17, Alan, his father, Jeff, and his 10-year-old brother Riley were T-boned in their car when crossing Highway 169 near Alan's hometown of Milaca, Minn. Unconscious and with only a weak heartbeat, Alan was airlifted to North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale, Minn.

Despite his injuries, including a severely crushed and lacerated liver, a collapsed lung, ruptured bladder and shattered pelvis, the staff at North Memorial was able to save Alan's life.

Children's sought for ECMO expertise

But Alan soon developed acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) — a life-threatening condition resulting from the injuries to his lungs. After several unsuccessful attempts to treat Alan's condition, the care team at North Memorial contacted Children's.

"They were reaching out to us as a last resort," said Ken Maslonka, MD, medical director of Children's pediatric intensive care unit. "They had tried some ventilation techniques but believed Alan would die soon if nothing else could be offered."

What Maslonka and Children's could offer was extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO. Often used following pediatric heart surgery, ECMO does the work of a patients' heart and lungs, giving their body time to heal.

Odds stacked against him

Designated as center of excellence by the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization, Children's was in a strong position to offer support in the fight to save Alan's life. Still, Alan's life was in the balance.

"The outlook for Alan when he came to us was not positive," said David Overman, MD, a pediatric cardiac surgeon at Children's. "The chances of survival for someone with ARDS — especially when combined with multiple trauma like he endured — are not high."

After 25 days on ECMO, however, under the care of many members of Children's professional staff, Alan awoke and began asking the questions his family had been waiting — and hoping — to answer.

"We believed he would pull through. But seeing him lying in the hospital day after day, the hope wasn't always there," said Alan's stepmother Kris Moos. "But the way it all turned out and the care Alan received; I don't think we could've asked for anything better."

"Remarkable" ending

186669-2Alan Moos on Aug 8, 2009, his recovery is remarkable and inspirational.

It is indeed difficult to imagine a better ending to story that began so horribly.

While Alan walks with a slight limp and is still trying to build his strength through regular physical therapy appointments, he is indistinguishable from any healthy teenager.

"The fact that Alan was able to recover so completely from this ordeal is remarkable — and really inspirational for everyone involved in his care," said Mark Eikenberry, MD, of Children's respiratory and critical care department. "He has a wonderful family and we all bonded with them."

The feeling, according to Kris, is definitely mutual.

"The doctors and nurses were all so supportive," said Kris. "They always treated Alan like he was their own. The experience, under the circumstances, was a good as it can get."