A hospital is not a health farm. For starters, the food has a terrible reputation. Seriously, when life is on the brink, a hospital is the destination. Staff are trained and equipped to deal with a range of accidents, injuries and human illnesses.
Sane people see hospitals as a last resort, and rightly so, because they are not without risk. Over the years I have even heard people say, “I wouldn’t go there unless I was dying.” Cross infection with bacteria resistant to antibiotics can occur, for example. Pain, trauma, loss, fear, helplessness or medical incompetence make for worrying prospects. Anyone in need of acute hospital care must give up their personal power.
If you need to go to the hospital, it is a good idea to have a competent companion at the bedside, someone to hold a hand or a lawyer; to speak if the patient is unable. For example, if it gets frantic with other emergencies, a patient may be left in a corner cubicle or left lying on an aisle cart.
In the time of COVID-19
As if all this weren’t enough, the COVID-19 era has superimposed itself on a sense of strangeness. Staff face a series of additional protocols to prevent the spread of the COVID Delta variant. This more contagious variant drastically raised the ante. Its attack profile includes young adults and even some children. Protective clothing and other precautions can be intimidating for patients and stressful and tiring for hospital staff. Under COVID rules, relatives and friends are often not allowed in at all.
So what can we expect as our society, businesses and travel open up, at the height of the pandemic, as planned for NSW? Government advisers reassure us that hospitals will prepare for the expected increase in demand.
Another perspective comes from The Australian Medical Journal, independent from government. Its editor-in-chief, professor emeritus Nick Talley predicted “a tsunami of hospitalizations when Australia opens to COVID restrictions”.
And the Australian Doctor Magazine issued a warning. Professor Raina Macintyre and a panel of 48 pandemic experts, the Kirby Institute’s Ozsage group, said “hospitals could be overwhelmed by the New Wales government’s ‘road map to freedom’ policy from South “. They predict that around Christmas it will be code black, which means full occupancy of intensive care. Hospital system “tsunami” and “overflow” warnings telegraph possible hospital conditions in the coming months.
The usual mix of health issues is kind of forgotten in setting COVID spots. Added to this is the procession of physical and mental illnesses, exacerbated by confinement. For the ten thousand things that plague humans, we will still need hospital services, but it is difficult to see how the system will continue to provide quality services.
Even though we have been in this pandemic for less than two years, the development of knowledge provides welcome assurances. A happy surprise is that a fully vaccinated person is unlikely to become ill enough to require hospitalization, in particular, not to need intensive care ventilation.
As of August 13, research from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States confirmed that vaccinated adults over 65 are 96% less likely to need a ventilator and intensive care. A reverse conclusion is that the risk of death in unvaccinated people is eleven-fold higher.
A doctor’s job is not to save the world, but to look after the individual interests of his patients. With that in mind, the best reason I can find to get the vaccine is to avoid the need for ventilator intervention.
Anyone of advanced age, or with an underlying illness, who is sick enough with COVID to require ventilation is already in trouble. According to the accounts of survivors, the prospects for a return to solid long-term health are far from rosy.
We must talk about intensive care
Let me take you on a tour of a Cook’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU) ventilator because, for me, it was a central issue in vaccination decisions. Years ago I walked on the floor of a busy intensive care unit in London. I remember the nickname we gave to this place – “the dear fear unit”.
The Ventilator was a cutting edge machine at this time, before computers. Of course, technology has improved out of sight in the digital age, but the human machine is the same. The Fan does not work like a Thermomix in the kitchen with predictable results. Stories published by COVID survivors who have needed ventilation confirm that the road to recovery is unpredictable or long-term when this virus gets in its clutches.
it works like that
The ventilator takes over the control of natural breathing. The essence of the treatment is an intimate junction via a tube in the patient’s larynx to the machine, which provides rhythmic positive pressure for inflating the lungs. A drug modeled on curare, a tribal arrow poison of the South American Indians, is commonly used to paralyze the entire body, including the diaphragm muscle, to prevent the patient from fighting with the machine.
In everyday life, even the most committed couch potato naturally exercises this diaphragm to breathe, to stay alive. On a ventilator, the diaphragm cannot exercise, and it atrophy of disuse very quickly.
Ventilation survivors need prolonged rehabilitation in specialized physiotherapy for muscle wasting throughout the body. The longer the treatment, the more complex the recovery.
By the way, a side effect of positive pressure ventilation can include clotting in the lungs. Please don’t think I’m hitting the ventilator because this treatment has saved so many lives. This gives nature time to catch up, for example, in the event of near drowning.
But even though policies may deliver a thousand ventilators, each machine requires a team of highly expert operators and close monitoring of an unconscious patient. Meanwhile, the stress of burnout syndrome under COVID conditions is decimating these trained personnel.
For those who think the vaccine is a danger or a Bill Gates conspiracy, consider the arrow poison alternative.
On October 11, when Sydney comes out of containment, watch out for the rush of burning bulls galloping north. There is no time to hesitate about the vaccine because they can come for you.
♦ Dr Who has written for Echo and had their references checked to confirm the opinion’s expertise.