IMAGE: Ventilator generic

They're the option of last resort and there's not enough of them to go around.

Ventilators are in high demand for the sickest patients with COVID-19.

"One of the things that this does is it causes a lot of inflammation, scarring, and fluid buildup in the lungs, and that can make it very hard for people to breathe," said Dr. Dennis Cunningham, corporate medical director at McLaren Health Care.

Cunningham says for some patients, ventilators can mean the difference between life and death.

Because unlike oxygen masks, ventilators get oxygen into the blood, while clearing out carbon dioxide.

"Usually involves that we have to put a breathing tube into the throat, to get enough oxygen,” Cunningham said. “And they will push air into the lungs so that we're breathing and then they take the air back out."

And it's because of this that hospitals are trying to obtain as many ventilators as possible.

"We have approximately 50 ventilators that we can use, and we have around 12 of them in use," said Dr. Norman Chapin, chief medical officer at McLaren Bay and Thumb Region.

He says for now, they have enough ventilators on hand but admits that could change in the future.

Which is why he said they're maintaining and preserving the ones they have.

"Most of our ventilators require a great deal of maintenance,” Chapin said. “The machines themselves go through a very rigorous disinfectant ion process after each use, according to the manufacturer's guidelines. So, the machine can be used, but there's a lot of disposable parts to it that we remove after each patient has used one."

Copyright 2020 WNEM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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