Local respiratory therapist explains how ventilators work

Coronavirus

​ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (KDVR) — With all the talk about ventilators during this pandemic, we asked a respiratory therapist at Swedish Medical Center in Englewood to explain what they are and how they work.

Lonnie Martinez is the administrative director of Clinical Operations and oversees the respiratory therapy operations at Swedish.

He says Swedish has seen an increase in COVID-19 patients in the last few days, and some patients are on mechanical ventilators right now.

He says when a COVID-19 patient gets to a point that they need help to breathe, the mechanical ventilator is a life-saving piece of equipment.

“Ventilators are highly technical pieces of equipment that respiratory therapists are expertly trained at managing. They are the lifeblood to keeping patients breathing when they can’t breathe on their own,” he said. 

To use it, a tube is inserted into a patient’s mouth and down the windpipe.

“That tube then allows for the ventilator to breathe the breath of air into the patient’s lungs,” Martinez said. 

Respiratory therapists go to school for 2-6 years to be able to do their job, and they are working side by side with doctors and nurses.

Martinez says the average amount of time that COVID-19 patients at Swedish are spending on a ventilator is six to 10 days. The average for all other patients is two days.

Mechanical ventilators cost between $28,000-$55,000. There are contingency plans in place if the hospital needs more.

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