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The Oklahoma City Dodgers and INTEGRIS Health wrap up the 2016 “Home Run For Life” series Friday, Aug. 26 at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark by recognizing teenager Andrew Vargas, an award-winning pianist who was diagnosed with a life-threatening autoimmune disease called Wegener’s Granulomatosis.

Andrew Vargas to Celebrate "Home Run for Life" Friday, Aug. 26 with OKC Dodgers

OKLAHOMA CITY (August 24, 2016) – The Oklahoma City Dodgers and INTEGRIS Health wrap up the 2016 “Home Run For Life” series Friday, Aug. 26 at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark by recognizing teenager Andrew Vargas, an award-winning pianist who was diagnosed with a life-threatening autoimmune disease called Wegener’s Granulomatosis. 

Vargas, 15, was diagnosed with the rare condition in June 2015 and physicians at INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center used extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, known as ECMO, to save his life.

“Home Run For Life” recognizes individuals in the Oklahoma City 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 an in-game ceremony.

“The Home Run For Life series allows us to highlight some amazing people in the local area who have prevailed against extraordinary health challenges,” OKC Dodgers President/General Manager Michael Byrnes said. “Their determination and courage inspire us all and we are pleased to honor these individuals throughout the season with our partner INTEGRIS Health.”

In May 2015, Vargas took home high honors from a three-day piano festival in Denver, Colo. Young pianists from across the country participated in the Festival for Creative Pianists to showcase their proficiency in piano and composition.

Vargas, who resides in Mustang, placed first in all of the categories he competed in and for the second straight year, took home the Artist Pianist Award, which goes to the pianist who demonstrates the highest caliber of mature musical artistry, comparable to professional concert pianists.

But soon after that banner weekend, Vargas fell ill with what first seemed like a cold, then pneumonia. He was treated for pneumonia after doctors found lesions on his lungs, but antibiotics didn’t work.

“I don’t know how I got sick,” Andrew Vargas said. “But I thought I was probably tired from the trip, which led to having a cold and then pneumonia, at least this is what I thought was happening.”

A few weeks later, Vargas was hospitalized in the pediatric intensive care unit at INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center, diagnosed with a life-threatening autoimmune disease called Wegener’s Granulomatosis, which affects less than 0.6 of one million children.

The rare disease caused inflammation of Vargas’ blood vessels and restricted blood flow to various organs, including his lungs, upper respiratory, and later, his kidneys. Despite the treatment he first received, he was not fully able to breathe – and was dying.

Aly El Banayosy, M.D., a transplant and acute circulatory support critical care physician with the INTEGRIS Advanced Cardiac Care team, was called in to determine if Vargas was a candidate for ECMO therapy. Vargas was placed on ECMO within an hour of his examination on July 3, 2015.

ECMO provides cardiac and respiratory support oxygen to patients whose heart and/or lungs are so severely diseased or damaged they can no longer function, such as after a heart attack, cardiac surgery, flu or pneumonia. 

The therapy continually pumps blood from the patient through a membrane oxygenator that imitates the gas exchange process of the lung – removing carbon dioxide and adding oxygen – before returning the blood to the patient. ECMO allows the heart or lungs to rest and recover while the machine does the work. Once the organs have healed, the support is gradually removed.

Vargas spent the next 27 days on ECMO with his parents at his bedside waiting for his body to heal and surviving thanks to the special last-resort therapy.

On July 30, 2015, his lungs were determined to be strong enough to function on their own and he was removed from the ECMO machine. He was discharged from the hospital about one month later on Aug. 27, 2015 and as of February 2016 continues to be in remission.

Now he is back to doing what he loves most – playing the piano and creating beautiful music – thanks to the advanced care he received at INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center.

“I felt such a peace there,” Michelle Vargas, Andrew’s mom, said of her family’s time at INTEGRIS. “We had such a confidence in the doctors. They just took such good care of him, and we trusted them.”

To read Vargas’ full story, visit okcdodgers.com.

Watch Andrew Vargas complete his “Home Run For Life” following the third inning of the OKC Dodgers’ Friday, Aug. 26 game against the Colorado Springs Sky Sox. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark. Interview requests for the family of Vargas, as well as INTEGRIS or Dodgers personnel can be made through the Dodgers media department. For ticket information, please call (405) 218-1000 or visit okcdodgers.com.