For the past three months, since the world went onto its knees following a massive battering by the deadly Coronavirus pandemic, several countries say they do not have ventilators to help out #Covid-19 patients.
Some countries in Europe severely hit by the pandemic have even ordered that elderly patients be removed from ventilators.
But what exactly is a ventilator? What does it do? How much does it cost and why do many countries around the world lack these ventilators in their medical arsenals?
According to Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, who heads the WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, when a patient is infected by coronavirus, the virus attacks cells in their body, hijacking them.
The patient may show a simple cold with symptoms such as a sore throat, runny nose, fever, all the way through pneumonia. And there can be varying levels of severity of pneumonia all the way through multi-organ failure and death,” Dr. Maria says.
When the patient begins descending into pneumonia, it means the air being breathed through the mouth is supposed to move down the windpipe and through the tiny tubes in lungs up to little air sacs.
However, someone with pneumonia the tiny air sacs start to fill with water and can eventually cause shortness of breath and difficulty in breathing. At this point, the patient should be at the hospital being taken care of by doctors.
It is at this stage that the doctors will need a ventilator to ensure that the patient is breathing through the help of this tool.
The ventilator, according to many suppliers, cost between $25,000 and $50,000. This is such a high cost tool that many poor countries may not afford for available Intensive Care Units. This is the same reason why most countries especially in Africa have Hospitals but with few ICU beds.
For an ICU bed to be considered complete, it must have a ventilator too.
Ministry of Health officials declined to reveal how many ventilators and ICU beds are available in Rwanda.
A ventilator is a machine designed to provide assistance for a patient who is not able to breathe. And this has been reported as a common trend among the coronavirus patients.
This machine will push oxygen into the lungs, remove carbon dioxide from the body, help patients breathe easier, after losing ability to breathe on their own.
Hospitalized COVID-19 patients have a strong message for you: "It's not worth it." pic.twitter.com/KTNJl6OH6t
— DW News (@dwnews) April 5, 2020
Much of the activities of the ventilator are programmed from a screen attached. This machine also helps the patient’s body to heal, since it eliminates the extra energy of labored breathing.
A patient supported by a ventilator is not able to speak and eat. Instead of food, the health care team may give nutrients through a tube inserted into a vein. If a patient is on a ventilator for a long period, they will likely get food through a nasogastric, or feeding tube.