Bay Area doctors finding ways to help keep some COVID-19 patients off ventilators

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. (KGO) -- At Walnut Creek's John Muir Medical Center, an old school practice, used in a new way is proving to be a valuable tool in keeping COVID-19 patients off ventilators.

"We've learned a lot about the care of COVID patients since the beginning," said Michelle Lopes, Chief Nursing Executive for John Muir Health.

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Until recently, the practice of turning someone over, usually with a mechanical bed, was done almost exclusively after the patient had been intubated, but at John Muir, medical staff aren't waiting.

"Prone positioning is literally placing someone face down on their stomach," explained Dr. Kristina Kramer, Director of Critical Care for John Muir Health. "In fact, we started using prone positioning with patients who were not intubated yet, who were not on a breathing machine to allow them to have better oxygenation and possibly, to avoid intubation."

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And there are many other tools, lessons learned, for those treating the most seriously ill coronavirus patients.

"Now we have a lot more information, number one, about the virus and how it acts," said Dr. Andra Blomkalns, Chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Stanford, "and then also some additional treatment potentials, most notably the monoclonal antibodies from Lilly and Regeneron and those are given early in the course of the disease, before the patient needs to be hospitalized."

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"Despite the challenges of treating so many COVID patients here over the past 10 months, doctors are confident the tools and knowledge gained during that time will be lifesaving long after the pandemic is over."

"This is something, we've talked about it recently," said Kramer. "We'll be applying this to patients with all types of respiratory failure going forward."

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