It looks like Elon Musk did the right thing by listening to the doctors who told him what to send them — despite the faux media outrage that centered around his generosity. In the UK, Sky News reports that hospitals have cut back the death rates of COVID-19 patients with these “black boxes” for sleep disorders. In fact, healthcare workers have said there has been less need for invasive ventilators and patients recover faster.
Mad respect to @elonmusk for getting this right and provide hospitals with precisely what they needed. You are our 🛡️!
Thanks to @davidtayar5 for bringing this to my attention.
— Pope of Muskanity (@RationalEtienne) April 24, 2020
In Cheshire, the mortality rates have gone down and the chances of a quick recovery from the virus have improved with the adaptation of breathing machines that are normally used for sleep disorders. Doctors at Warrington Hospital modified black boxes, which are used for treating sleep apnea. This is when people temporarily stop breathing while asleep. The key is treating patients early with these black boxes. This helps prevent the need for the intrusive ventilators.
In Chicago, doctors at the University of Chicago Medicine have seen “truly remarkable results” using high-flow nasal cannulas (HFNC) instead of intubation and ventilators while treating some COVID-19 patients. HFNCs are nasal prongs that sit below the nostrils and blow large volumes of warm, humidified oxygen into the nose and lungs. These are non-invasive. A team from UChicago Medicine’s emergency room gave dozens of COVID-19 patients who were experiencing respiratory distress HFNCs instead of putting them on ventilators. The patients, except for one who had to be intubated, fared really well.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 25, 2020
Dr. Michael O’Connor, director of UChicago’s Medicine’s Critical Care Medicine said that “The success we’ve had has been truly remarkable.” Dr. Thomas Spiegel, Medical Director of UChicago’s Medicine’s Emergency Department, added that, “The proning and the high-flow nasal cannulas combined have brought patient oxygen levels from around 40% to 80% and 90%, so it’s been fascinating and wonderful to see.”
“Avoiding intubation is key. Most of our colleagues around the city are not doing this, but I sure wish other ERs would take a look at this technique closely,” he says. However, this approach puts healthcare workers at risk since the HFNCs blow out the air, turning the COVID-19 virus into a fine spray in the air. Healthcare workers must have proper PPE, negative pressure patient rooms, and anterooms (where staff can change in and out of their safety gear).
Doctors in multiple cities are also moving away from the idea of ventilators for COVID-19 patients. Experts have said that, generally, 40–50% of patients with severe respiratory distress die while on ventilators and 80% or more of coronavirus patients on ventilators in New York City have died. Some health professionals speculate that ventilators could make matters worse in some patients by either starting or worsening a harmful immune system reaction. Dr. Eddy Fan of Toronto General Hospital says that, “We know that mechanical ventilation is not benign. One of the most important findings in the last few decades is that medical ventilation can worsen lung injury — so we have to be careful how we use it.”
This brings into question just how wrongly people have been who have accused Elon Musk of killing people by “not donating ventilators” or by “donating the wrong kind” even when shown proof that he has donated ventilators.