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Sickest Flu Victims Face ICU Equipment Shortages
Travis County has had nine flu related deaths this season, for a total of 11 deaths in Central Texas.
In this especially bad flu season there's now a shortage of equipment that helps save patients suffering with the flu.
Dr. Jordan Weingarten is the medical director for Seton Medical Center's intensive care unit. Weingarten says he's never seen so many healthy young patients end up in ICU, hooked up to respirators because of the flu.
"We've never seen anything like this," he says.
Some cases are so severe even respirators aren't working and patients need to be hooked up to artificial lung machines called ECMO.
"This keeps patients alive or helps them stay alive until their lungs hopefully clear up from the infection of the flu," Weingarten said.
Seton Medical Center also uses special beds that can rotate patients onto their stomachs to help clear the lungs -- but the problem is the supply for both the beds and the lung machines are limited.
"We actually have run out of the beds the company that provides them have been in short supply. There have been waiting lists for them and patients have had to wait," Weingarten said.
In some cases patients had to be sent elsewhere.
"We had a helicopter come in from San Antonio. The patient was transported to Houston where they did have an extra bed," Weingarten said.
Weingarten worries what will happen if the number of flu patients continues to climb because Seton Medical Center only has six lung machines available.
"In all honesty there's the risk that if there's not enough equipment someone will die. This is a bad situation we are in right now," Weingarten said.
By Rachel Kent