Video by CVMBS Communications
Whether it is hooked up to a dog or a human, a ventilator can save a life.
In response to the need for ventilators brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Colorado State University’s James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital has loaned 33 machines to UCHealth Medical Center of the Rockies, including an assortment of anesthesia circuits, patient monitors, long-term ventilators and a high-flow nasal oxygen administration system.
Along with the anesthesia circuits, the hospital sent two long-term medical ventilators, which are built and designed to treat respiratory disease in people, from small children to adults.
Most veterinary equipment is new or repurposed human equipment.
“All our veterinary anesthesia circuits were built using designs first used for people,” says Dr. Tim Hackett, interim associate dean of CSU’s Veterinary Health System. “Anesthesia circuits are used for ventilation during general anesthesia, and while they are not the sophisticated long-term human ventilators designed for treating respiratory disease, they can be modified and useful for short-term ventilation.”
The veterinary hospital remains open for emergencies and critical patients, and it has retained enough of its own equipment to continue adequate operation, according to Hackett.
“Most of the loaned machines were used primarily for teaching,” says Hackett. “We are not doing a lot of that in person now,” since all CSU classroom teaching, including the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program, has moved online.
Following the delivery of a brand-new ventilator to UCHealth Poudre Valley Hospital three weeks ago, CSU is loaning the equipment to the Medical Center of the Rockies until more long-term ventilators are available. Eventually, “we’ll need them back as we try to get back to normal operations for patient care, teaching and research,” Hackett says.
Because the virus does severe damage to the lungs, ventilators are necessary tools to help critically ill COVID-19 patients, making them one of the most crucial needs for hospitals. When the lungs are no longer able to oxygenate the body, a ventilator can help do the job.
“Your heart pumps the blood through the lungs, which pumps the blood through the rest of your body to make sure your whole body is oxygenated,” says Candice Kmetz-Parkinson, manager of respiratory therapy at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital.
“The ventilator allows us to deliver a higher concentration of oxygen and really push it in to the lungs and make sure that we’re keeping the lungs open, called a PEEP,” she says.
The machine inhales and exhales for a patient, allowing the body to rest while the machine does the work. “The medications kick in, the virus passes, and the body can kind of take its time while on the ventilator. That way your body’s not having to work so hard to fight everything at once,” Kmetz-Parkinson says.
Colorado State and UCHealth have been partners in health care, athletics and academics over recent years. Kevin Unger, CEO of the UCHealth Northern Colorado Region, has collaborated with Dr. Mark Stetter, dean of CSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, on a multitude of projects, including CSU’s medical branch partnership with the University of Colorado School of Medicine. “We work together almost continually,” Unger says. “When things like this happen, those relationships are invaluable. As a community partner, CSU has been tremendous.”
The veterinary hospital equipment is a critical tool to help local COVID-19 patients. “We can’t thank CSU enough,” he says, “they have been stepping up in big ways.”