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COVID-19 patients treated with oxygen therapy at King’s

10 May 2021 - Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, medical teams across the world have been developing new ways to treat the virus

Dr Akash Deep, Director of the PICU at King’s College Hospital, explains how he and his colleagues have been using alternatives to intubation and ventilators: “Learnings from the first wave of the pandemic taught us that patients with COVID-19 pneumonia can be initially managed by using high-flow nasal cannula (HFNC) oxygen therapy. This treatment is non-invasive, so does not involve intubation or ventilation, but it can make a huge difference to patients and their recoveries.”

HNFC oxygen therapy is delivered through a machine which blows warmed and humidified oxygen with a very high flow rate to help critically ill patients breathe, without involving a ventilator. It is typically give to help with conditions including pneumonia, heart failure and sleep apnoea, but Ra’Mell Price-Rowe, 18, from Croydon, is one COVID-19 survivor who has also benefitted from the treatment.

Ra’Mell’s mother, Angela Price-Rowe explained: “Ra’Mell has asthma and usually has a cough, so initially we didn’t realise he’d caught COVID-19. But when he developed flu-like symptoms in December 2020, and his coughing increased, we knew he needed to take a test. It was awful watching Ra’Mell gradually get worse and worse. Eventually, just before Christmas, I called 111 when he started to struggle with his breathing, and they sent an ambulance. It was such a difficult time, I knew I wouldn’t be able to visit him in hospital, but he was in such a bad way, we didn’t have a choice.

“When he was admitted to hospital, Ra’Mell’s lungs were in a bad way, and he needed extra oxygen. He was in an intensive care ward, and that’s where he had the oxygen therapy, which really helped with his breathing.”

Dr Akash Deep, added: “When Ra’Mell was referred to us, he had COVID pneumonia, which affected his underlying asthma. This made the clinical situation more complicated. We were initially worried that Ra’Mell might end up on a ventilator, as he needed more oxygen. However, we started treatment with HFNC oxygen therapy and through efficient medical and nursing care from the PICU team, collaborative support from colleagues on our adult wards, as well as hard work from Ra’Mell by adhering to breathing exercises and treatment plan, his condition improved dramatically.”

Angela said: “Ra’Mell has ADHD and is autistic, and I was so worried about him being in hospital on his own. But the nursing staff on the paediatric ward were brilliant. They knew exactly how to care for him, and had so much empathy. They made sure he had a laptop so he could keep in touch with us all, which meant the world. He’s doing much better now, but he owes his life to King’s.”