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What is a ventilator? The life saving device that is in short supply


BATON ROUGE, La. (LOCAL 33/FOX 44) – There is a lot of talk about ventilators during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Our ventilator capacity is far from okay in Louisiana,” said Governor John Bel Edwards on Wednesday.

MORE: ‘We are far from OK.’ Gov. Edwards urges residents to heed stay-at-home order, expect COVID-19 cases in every parish

The machine is used to help someone breathe, especially when they are suffering from the critical issues caused by the coronavirus.

Dr. James Ford with Our Lady of the Lake explained how a ventilator works.

“It’s kinda like the movies. There’s like the tube that comes off the end of this and it goes into a box and the box has a bunch of dials and graphs. This tube goes down into the mouth and the end of the tube sits down here. So, it’s pretty far into your body and the machine will blow air in and out of this tube to keep you alive,” said Dr. Ford.

New numbers released Friday from the Louisiana Department of Health show of the 773 COVID-19 patients in hospitals in the state, 270 are on ventilators. Like the Governor, Dr. Ford is concerned about a possible shortage.

Dr. Ford pleaded, “If people don’t do what they’re supposed to do, which means the social distancing. That means don’t gather and go to parties. Don’t have crawfish boils, then we are going to run out of ventilators.”

Dr. Ford said coronavirus patients will have to stay on ventilators for weeks, depending on their complications. Reports show the machines can range from $25,000 for a basic model to $50,000 for a machine used in the most advanced ICU.

MORE: Gov. Edwards: Louisiana remains on ‘growth curve and trajectory we don’t like”

Dr. Ford explained there’s talk about using one ventilator for more than one patient, but following doctors’ orders will keep that plan from happening.

“Wash your hands, self-quarantine yourself, social distancing. All these types of things can make a really big impact,” said Dr. Ford.

Dr. Ford said ventilators can last for a long time. Once a patient no longer needs one, the tube is thrown away and the ventilator is used for the next patient after a thorough cleaning.

You can watch the full interview with Dr. James Ford below:

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