“Last hope” extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) allowed Cliff Allison’s body to heal before heart surgery


OKLAHOMA CITY – The 11th season of the INTEGRIS Health “Home Run for Life” series continues Friday night as Cliff Allison will be recognized prior to the Oklahoma City Dodgers’ 7:05 p.m. game against the Sugar Land Space Cowboys at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.

Allison, 53, suffered acute mitral valve failure during the summer of 2020. However, a buildup of fluid in his lungs made it impossible to operate on his heart. Allison was flown from Tulsa to INTEGRIS Health in Oklahoma City where he would receive an advanced life-saving treatment called extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO).

“There’s no question that what INTEGRIS Health did was a life-saver,” Allison said.

“Home Run For Life” recognizes individuals in the community who have overcome a significant medical event with the help of their families, physicians and health care professionals. To symbolize the end of their battle against adversity, honorees take a home run “lap” around the bases during a pregame ceremony.

“Each month during the baseball season, we are proud to partner with INTEGRIS Health to honor the perseverance and courage displayed by these incredible Oklahomans,” OKC Dodgers President/General Manager Michael Byrnes said. “’Home Run For Life’ allows us to uniquely recognize their amazing and inspiring stories of triumph over significant health challenges.”

Allison was mowing his lawn on a warm June day in 2020 when he suddenly felt overheated and had trouble breathing. His symptoms did not improve and testing at an urgent care revealed the levels of oxygen in his blood were dangerously low. He was rushed to the emergency room in Tulsa.

There, he was diagnosed with acute mitral valve failure, but unfortunately, by the time the cause was discovered, Allison had suffered further complications, including a buildup of fluid in his lungs, which made a heart operation impossible at that time.

After being flown to INTEGRIS Health in Oklahoma City, Allison started ECMO treatment, which works like a set of heart and lungs for a patient. It is often considered as a “last hope” for patients with hearts in critical condition.

ECMO bought Allison’s body time to heal, and once he was stable, Dr. Marshall Bell, M.D., a cardiothoracic surgeon at INTEGRIS Health, was able to replace Allison’s mitral valve and save his life.

“If it weren’t for the skill and care I got at INTEGRIS Health, I wouldn’t be here today,” Allison said.

To read Allison’s full story, visit the OKC Dodgers’ “Beyond the Bricks” website at: medium.com/beyond-the-bricks. Photos of Allison are attached for use (credit: OKC Dodgers).

The Dodgers continue a six-game series against the Sugar Land Space Cowboys at 7:05 p.m. tonight and the teams play nightly through Sunday at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.

Allison will be honored prior to Friday night’s 7:05 p.m. game and Friday Night Fireworks are set to follow the game.

Saturday is Marvel Defenders of the Diamond Night and the Dodgers will wear special edition Marvel-branded jerseys on the field. Special guests Thor and Star-Lord will be in attendance. A Braum’s Friends and Family group offer is available Saturday for groups of 10 or more to receive a game ticket, OKC Dodgers hat and meal voucher to use at any Braum’s location in Oklahoma for a special ticket price.

Following Sunday night’s 6:05 p.m. series finale against the Space Cowboys, kids can run the bases.

OKC Dodgers tickets can be purchased through okcdodgers.com/tickets. For more information, please visit okcdodgers.com or call (405) 218-2182. 

Live radio coverage of each OKC Dodgers game begins 15 minutes before first pitch on AM 1340 "The Game," 1340thegame.com and through the free iHeartRadio or MiLB First Pitch apps. OKC Dodgers games are also available streamed live on MiLB.TV with a subscription.