Coronavirus 2020

Coronavirus: The Awful, Necessary Ventilator

Wednesday, April 1, 2020 8:47 p.m.

By Robin Postell

The nonstop news cycle about the coronavirus fails to land for any length of time on particular stories of specific note. One of which is, what being on a ventilator means, and how bad is it, really?

We all of “being on a ventilator,” and probably know someone who was.

A breathing tube connects the ventilator machine to your body, with one end of the tube placed into the lung’s airways through your mouth or nose. This is called intubation.

WebMD defines “intubation” as:

Intubation is a procedure that’s used when you can’t breathe on your own. Your doctor puts a tube down your throat and into your windpipe to make it easier to get air into and out of your lungs. A machine called a ventilator pumps in air with extra oxygen. Then it helps you breathe out air that’s full of carbon dioxide (CO2). This is called mechanical ventilation. It helps keep your oxygen and CO2 at healthy levels.

Intubation medical definition

But unless you’re dealing with it, one on one, chances are, don’t really know how bad it actually sucks.

First of all, we are being given bits and pieces of info about the coronavirus’ deadly prowl to steal our oxygen. Still, it’s moving so fast are we really getting the whole picture?

Ventilators! Ventilators! We need more ventilators!

What we’re hearing is a massive oncoming peak still a week or two away, with an inevitable shortage of ventilators. This is being wrangled out in the media and it is confusing why there is such a shortage, and why some supplies of them aren’t making it to their desired targets, like the one going on in New York.

I was talking to my sister today, Tami Mote, who works for a large medical complex in South Carolina. She’s a medical gangsta, an OG, been working in her field long enough to have seen a few things and has ridden out plenty of storms through the decades. She’s got jam-up immunity because of these many years, and doesn’t seem at all concerned

But, she admits, being on a ventilator really does suck.

Here’s how she breaks it down. If you’re on a ventilator, you’re in critical condition.

“You never want something else having to do the breathing for you,” she says. “Once you’re on a ventilator, often times your chances of getting off it aren’t that great.”

In other words, you’re already in pretty bad shape by the time you’ve been designated a vent.

Having a tube jammed down your lungs to help facilitate the intake of oxygen means lots of discomfort. Often, patients must be medicated into a paralyzed state in order not to fight the discomfort.

Sometimes, patients will be placed on their stomachs to offset the discomfort of the tubing into their pulmonary headquarters.

A medical ventilator works to get oxygen into the lungs and remove carbon dioxide from your body. The ventilator will use pressure to blow air into your lungs, requiring electricity or battery power.

In some cases, the tube is connected directly to the windpipe through a hole, which requires surgery. This is referred to as a tracheostomy.

Stay at home, please. Avoid needing any of this!

Writer and photographer since age 7, I took it pro when I turned 21, freelancing for newspapers and magazines internationally. Now, I'm shifting gears looking for new adventures, both personally and professionally - the two have, frequently, been synonymous. A writer must adapt to the tsunami of technology and information in this brave new world. I'm game. R


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