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Photo courtesy of US Rowing

Getinge paved the way for Paralympic success

When the American rower Blake Haxton finished in fourth place in the single sculls in the 2016 Rio Paralympics, his parents Steve and Heather paid an extraordinary tribute to Getinge: “Without your technology, our son wouldn’t be alive.”

The story about how Getinge’s brand promise, Passion for life, helped pave the way for high school rower Blake Haxton’s international career started in 2009 as an ordinary Saturday evening in suburban Columbus, Ohio. In the Haxton home, Blake complained of a sore calf after a high school basketball game and then went to bed.

However, what seemed to be a harmless sports injury quickly developed into something far more lethal: necrotizing fasciitis, more commonly known as flesh-eating disease. Within 72 hours, Blake endured his first amputation and he would eventually lose his left leg up to the hip and his right leg to above the knee. As the infections spread, his heart, lungs, kidneys and liver began to shut down. Doctors would not even put a percentage on Blake’s survival chances.

“It was simply because they thought there was no hope,” recalls Dr. Michael Firstenberg, Assistant Professor of Surgery and Integrative Medicine at Northeast Ohio Medical University.

Dr. Firstenberg, an adult cardiac surgeon, helped coordinate and manage the solutions that oxygenated Blake Haxton’s blood outside of the body after his multiple organ failure seven years ago.

"I am amazed by what people have been willing to do for me"

Photo courtesy of US Rowing

A SERVO-i ventilator and a Quadrox-D (a temporary extra-corporeal support technology, similar to currently available CARDIOHELP, the world’s smallest portable heart-lung support system), are two other Getinge technologies involved in bringing Blake back to life. In all, the young athlete endured more than a month in a coma, 100 days in hospital and no less than 20 surgeries.

After the ordeal, it took four years before Blake picked up his rowing career again. He returned to the boat to take up arms and shoulders singles sculls. Different from traditional leg-driven rowing, the Paralympic version requires athletes to have a different type of balance and focus more on upper-body strength. Blake has quickly reached world class level by taking fourth and fifth place at the last two world championships before finishing fourth in Rio de Janeiro this year.

On land, the 25-year old has just completed his law school finals, with his eyes set on moving into the investment sphere. “I am amazed by what people have been willing to do for me,” Blake says. “And believe it or not, I’m as healthy as a horse. I don’t have a single prescription in my name. There could have been so many complications from all I went through. Although I don’t have my legs anymore, I have been told I have above average health.”