Invaluable Ventilators: The life-saving difference they can make

Posted at 11:28 PM, Apr 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-07 23:38:14-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — For many COVID-19 patients, a ventilator can mean the difference between life and death. We asked expert Dr. Sanjay Sethi, a specialist in pulmonary and critical care atUB Jacobs School of Medicine some of your questions.

“Most of the ones in the ICU need ventilators. I would say 5% need a ventilator of all the people who get COVID,” said Dr. Sethi.

That's because the virus can affect your lungs and your ability to breathe.

How does it work?

The ventilator assists breathing by pumping air in and helping the lungs. It's like a lung support system.

“The fact that somebody needs a ventilator means their illness is more severe. It’s not that the ventilator makes the prognosis worse, but the underlying disease is more severe,” said Dr. Sethi.

How long do people need this support?
“The mean time on a ventilator has been about ten days. It’s about 7 to 14 days for the majority of people,” said Dr. Sethi.

Then doctors slowly ween the patient off hte ventilator until they can breathe on their own.

How many people recover?
“Our attempt is to get them off the ventilator as soon as possible. I would say there’s a more than 50% chance that they’ll get off," said Dr. Sethi. “People are getting off ventilators, people are going home and that means there is the ability of the body to fight the infection and recover from it.”

That's why ventilators are in such high demand. Buffalo Common Council President Darius Pridgen is celebrating a medical success in his family, as his daughter is now off a ventilator.

“We don’t want that situation where we have to make a choice on who gets a ventilator and who doesn’t. The concern is the person that doesn’t get a ventilator may not do well,” said Dr. Sethi.

And the big question -- when will all of this end?
“The vaccine’s going to take at least a year, so we can’t really base our hopes on that, but there are a lot of attempts to slow down the virus. There will be an end to it, we don’t know when, but we are doing the right things as a community and we need to continue doing that," said Dr. Sethi.