In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

November 22, 2021

Logan’s story: Toddler survives near-drowning thanks to ECMO and Mayo team

By In the Loop
Logan Olson

When an 18-month-old was found unresponsive in a pond, his parents feared the worst. Then doctors offered hope with a life-support measure called ECMO.

On April 7, 2021, Erin Olson got a phone call she'll never forget.

It was her husband, Darwin, sounding frantic. "He said our son wasn't breathing and I should come home," Erin says.

Logan, their 18-month-old son, had fallen into a retention pond behind his day care. Darwin had found him unresponsive and pulled him out.

Erin was in shock when she arrived at the scene. She and her husband lay on the ground and held their son's hands as first responders performed CPR.

"He showed a few signs of life, some spontaneous breaths and pupil dilation, but wasn't awake or coherent by any means," Erin recalls.

An ambulance rushed Logan to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, which was just 15 minutes away. There, a team of doctors attempted multiple lifesaving efforts with little success.

"It was so hard to watch," Erin says. "My husband and I privately discussed a funeral and cremation because we had very little hope that first night."

A final resort and first glimpse of hope

Doctors offered the option of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO — a temporary life-support measure. Logan's parents immediately said yes.

"For us, this was a last-ditch effort to bring him life," Erin says.

Logan underwent surgery to have tubes placed in his blood vessels. ECMO took over the work of pumping his blood to and from a heart-lung machine. It gave Logan's heart and lungs a chance to rest and heal.

When he emerged from surgery, it was hard to recognize the bubbly toddler who loved pushing his dirt bike around the house and eating fruit all day. Tubes ran in and out of Logan's chest, leg, wrist and ankle. Sensors monitored brain activity. He was covered with blankets to keep his body temperature stable.

"They were very kind and patient with our 900 questions every hour, every beep of the machine ... they kept us involved, which was very reassuring."

Erin Olson

"We could touch one of his hands, a foot and one of his legs," Erin says. "The room was tight. He was so tiny in a full-size adult bed."

But the surgeons who oversaw the ECMO procedure "gave us our first glimpse of hope," she says. "They were very pleased with the surgery and his heart."

Good news from then on

A team of Mayo surgeons, social workers, first responders, nurses and ECMO specialists kept the anxious parents calm.

"They were very kind and patient with our 900 questions every hour, every beep of the machine," Erin says. "Even though much of the terminology was above our heads, they kept us involved, which was very reassuring."

Over the next two days, Erin and Darwin began to hear something they had prayed for: good news. Logan's condition was rapidly improving.

On his second night in the hospital, Logan squeezed his mother's hand.

"Every doctor and nurse kept telling us he was a miracle, which is truly amazing coming from people who experience life and death every day."

Erin Olson

"Every doctor and nurse kept telling us he was a miracle, which is truly amazing coming from people who experience life and death every day," Erin says.

When reflecting on her son's resilience, Erin says one moment stands out.

Once he was off the ECMO machine, "Logan was finally able to sit assisted in a chair and play with toys," she says. "But all he really wanted to do was give high-fives."

A joyful homecoming

Less than two weeks after he was found in the retention pond, Logan walked out of the front doors of Mayo Clinic Hospital in Rochester, holding his parents' hands and wearing a Minnesota Vikings stocking cap.

Supporters and friends lined the streets as his family drove home led by a celebratory caravan of police cars, fire trucks and ambulances.

Erin, Logan and Darwin Olson

In his first weeks back home, Logan's biggest challenge was difficulty walking after spending 12 days in a hospital bed. His medical team followed up with appointments and physical therapy to ensure a smooth recovery.

And he spent lots of time in the loving arms of his grateful parents.

"He was both himself and a new big boy that we hadn't met yet," Erin says. "Now he's doing fantastic. You would never know anything had happened to him if you didn't see his scars."


Tags: ECMO, Mayo Clinic Children's Center, Patient Stories

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