The ventilator – a dangerous weapon if used wrongly

By Marica Micallef

A ventilator mechanically helps pump oxygen into your body. The air flows through a tube that goes in your mouth and down your windpipe. So, one can think that it is quite helpful for patients who have difficulty breathing. The ventilator can be helpful for a few hours when one undergoes a surgery or for maximum of 3 days.  More than that, it becomes very damaging. 

Well, it had brought my dad on the brink of death. I have no doubt that there were patients, unfortunately, who did not make it. Others miraculously did. Unfortunately, the ventilators started being used for patients who were tested for Covid-19. They were very popular in the early phase but now, a number of doctors have started to question their long term benefits.

What had been extremely damaging is that the ventilator has been used on patients who did not have COVID-19. Like my father they were tested positive for Covid19 but when other tests were carried, they ended up with a negative result. What happened was that unfortunately, they were tested falsely positive. Instead they had pneumonia!

We only breathe a little amount of oxygen. The air we inhale is roughly 79% nitrogen and 21% oxygen with a very small amount of inert gases.  The air we exhale is roughly 79% nitrogen, 17% oxygen and 4% carbon dioxide! We metabolise only a few percentage.

When people, like my dad were given 100% oxygen even at one bar (14.68LBS per SQ. in = 1 atmosphere) for a length of time, it became potentially life threatening.  So, breathing oxygen at higher than normal partial pressure leads to hyperoxia.[1] 

My dad, while under the ventilator, developed pulmonary damage and pulmonary edema, that is, when the lungs fill up with fluids. This is due to the fact, that, he was exposed to above-normal oxygen partial pressures, or shorter exposures to very high partial pressures, which has caused oxidative damage to cell membranes leading to the collapse of the alveoli in the lungs. In fact, my dad had a collapsed lung.

Moreover, the oxygen pressure generated by the ventilator can cause a variety of complications affecting multiple organ systems. Hence, the fact that my dad developed AKI (acute kidney injury) and his liver was badly damaged, was surely the work of the ventilator, and not of Covid-19. 

If my dad had been administered the right medicine on the first day he was admitted to hospital, kept under observation and put the oxygen mask to help in his breathing, he would have been cured in 3 days from the bacteria present in his lungs and he would have been spared the ventilator and we would not have gone through the shock and the pain of losing him!

[1] Hafner S, Beloncle F, Koch A, Radermacher P, Asfar P. Hyperoxia in intensive care, emergency, and peri-operative medicine: Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde? A 2015 update. Ann Intensive Care. 2015 Dec;5(1):42. 

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