Tracker Pixel for Entry

The truth about being on a ventilator

Live and Learn | October 21st, 2020

By Ashlee Nordquist

hpr@hpr1.com

I've come to the conclusion that not everyone understands why my brother and I went on ventilators for covid and what that means. As I survived and my brother SO FAR is improving, I can make jokes and talk very straightforwardly about the condition without becoming a wreck. So here's some education.

1) You don't get to pick to be on a ventilator. We didn't pay extra to sleep through our symptoms.

2) Jacob and I both developed ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome). One of the requirements to meet ARDS is organ failure. Our organs failing were our lungs. It's not that it was just "hard to breathe." Our lungs were unable to process enough oxygen to keep us alive. Jacob was coughing up "shot glasses" of pinkish water. My lungs were holding the water within their linings so I had no cough and was just endlessly exhausted from low oxygen absorption. That's when a ventilator comes into play.

3) We got ARDS because we had strong immune systems. Our immune systems reacted to the virus so strongly that it decided to also attack the infected tissues in our lungs. That is what is called a cytokine storm.

4) Before going to a ventilator, you go through a variety of oxygen supplements. We had nasal cannulas, higher-powered cannulas, and then the BiPAP. A BiPAP is a dual-level CPAP that you have to wear all the time. It was my least favorite part of the hospital experience. The BiPAP is the last step before the ventilator. They use a BiPAP instead of a CPAP because the lungs are too damaged to handle a constant airflow level.

5) The ventilator is dangerous. There's still about a 50/50 chance of dying while having covid on a ventilator. I had a 12% chance of living as US doctors were still very new to the disease. Forcing air into the lungs at an unnatural rate and pressure is a bad time. If your oxygen is too low for too long, your other organs start failing. All the medications required to stabilize a person and keep them under are very hard on a body and sepsis or complications are common. But if you aren't on the ventilator, you die for sure.

6) The after-effects of the ventilator are ugly. The longer you are on, the uglier it is. Short term memory loss, inability to focus, muscle atrophy, shortness of breath, vocal cord damage, and a high risk of aspirating food and stomach acid are standard expectations that can last up to a year. That's why you have so much therapy after going off a ventilator.

7) Going into a coma while ventilated is also pretty standard. There are different levels of coma where you may still be able to take direction or react to stimulus so for part or all of that journey you are also paralyzed as higher ventilator pressures are extremely uncomfortable and most patients will rip out their own ventilator tubing due to the physical distress they experience while in the coma. Jacob has been paralyzed the entire time. I was for only a week of mine as keeping me slightly alert worked for giving me directions for rolling over/washing me but as I kept trying to sit up while unconscious, my arms had to be strapped down to the hospital bedsides instead.

8) The doctors don't understand why we are getting hit by Covid so hard. Jacob and I, despite our weight, are otherwise healthy, younger adults. Our blood work comes out solid. We have no asthma or a history of lung problems. We're both obese, but most people our size still aren't getting it as badly as we do.

9) Every time you say "you just gotta go out and live your life." Or "I'm going out even if I'm exposed because I'm healthy," you are telling us that you are aware that you are potentially killing people, but because it didn't kill you, you don't give a damn; and that people can be permanently damaged or dead at your hands because their lives matter less than your convenience. And that's monstrous. That's not a joke.

Recently in:

By Maddie Robinsonmaddierobi.mr@gmail.com This article discusses topics related to mental health and suicide. If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or visit 988lifeline.org. …

Homesteading stories shared by late local historianBy Michael M. Millermichael.miller@ndsu.edu The 53rd Germans from Russia Heritage Society Convention convenes July 17-20 at the Baymont Hotel in Mandan, North Dakota. For further…

With Javier Quiroz and Kohlrabi SoupJuly 10 at 7 p.m.The Aquarium226 N. Broadway, Fargo (above Dempsey’s)The Wall Street Journal had this to say about “Black Banjo,” Tray Wellington’s full-length debut: “This is a record…

The WFF Unified School District?By John Strandjas@hpr1.com Both the Fargo and West Fargo School Districts are strategizing their futures. This is necessary, because of immensely challenging financial and geopolitical changes facing…

By Ed Raymondfargogadfly@gmail.comShould ‘The Chosen One’ be Sentenced to Spend Months at each Level?It’s not unusual on this planet, we have had hundreds of men and a couple of women who have used religion to become…

By Rick Gionrickgion@gmail.com Holiday wine shopping shouldn’t have to be complicated. But unfortunately it can cause unneeded anxiety due to an overabundance of choices. Don’t fret my friends, we once again have you covered…

By Rick Gionrickgion@gmail.com In this land of hotdish and ham, the knoephla soup of German-Russian heritage seems to reign supreme. In my opinion though, the French have the superior soup. With a cheesy top layer, toasted baguette…

HPR chats with Bob Carpenter of the Nitty Gritty Dirt BandBy Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.com When asked if it was fair to consider the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band as “the godfathers of contemporary Americana” during our interview,…

Now playing at the Fargo Theatre.By Greg Carlson gregcarlson1@gmail.comPalme d’Or recipient “Anatomy of a Fall” is now enjoying an award-season victory tour, recently picking up Golden Globe wins for both screenplay and…

New Minnesota sculptures include artist’s largest trollBy Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.com According to Danish artist and environmental activist Thomas Dambo, “All trash is treasure.” So far, he and his team have built 138…

By John Showalterjohn.d.showalter@gmail.comHigh Plains Reader had the opportunity to interview two mysterious new game show hosts named Milt and Bradley Barker about an upcoming event they will be putting on at Brewhalla. What…

By Annie Prafckeannieprafcke@gmail.com AUSTIN, Texas – As a Chinese-American, connecting to my culture through food is essential, and no dish brings me back to my mother’s kitchen quite like hotdish. Yes, you heard me right –…

By Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.comNew Jamestown Brewery Serves up Local FlavorThere’s something delicious brewing out here on the prairie and it just so happens to be the newest brewery west of the Red River and east of the…

By John Showalter  john.d.showalter@gmail.comThey sell fentanyl test strips and kits to harm-reduction organizations and…

JANUARY 19, 1967– MARCH 8, 2023 Brittney Leigh Goodman, 56, of Fargo, N.D., passed away unexpectedly at her home on March 8, 2023. Brittney was born January 19, 1967, to Ruth Wilson Pollock and Donald Ray Goodman, in Hardinsburg,…

By Jim Fugliejimfuglie920@gmail.comMy articles here are about politics. I’m writing this before the North Dakota primary election. You are reading it after the primary. Advantage: readers. So I won’t speculate much on that…