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Doctor warns of risk in using ventilators to treat COVID-19

Posted at 10:10 PM, Jul 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-17 22:10:21-04
(WXYZ) —

As the number of coronavirus cases continues to climb across the country, how the disease gets treated is evolving.

Emergency Physician Dr. Cameron Kyle-Siddell, a doctor on the forefront of a national debate about ventilators, said he needed to speak up about some COVID-19 treatment strategies in the hopes of saving Americans.

Dr. Kyle-Siddell has been living the COVID-19 crisis on the front lines inside the Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York, but he feels a big connection with Detroit.

Dr. Kyle-Siddell did his emergency medicine training at Detroit Receiving Hospital back in 2013.

"I love Detroit, and I miss it, there’s a special place in my heart for it," said Dr. Kyle-Siddell.

Back in March, Dr. Kyle-Siddell called on his colleagues to re-think COVID-19.

"We are operating under a medical paradigm that is untrue," he said during a YouTube video. "In short, I believe we are treating the wrong disease, and I fear that this misguided treatment will lead to a tremendous amount of harm to a great number of people in a very short time."

Dr. Kyle-Siddell said New York was about 10 days ahead of the rest of the country with the spread of the virus back in March and April. He said he'd never really had a social media presence before, but decided to take his concerns to YouTube and Twitter, to get the word out.

He wanted to warn us all about the risk of using ventilators the same way doctors normally would for pneumonia and Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, or ARDS, patients.

"The risk of putting someone on was higher than we had initially expected," he told 7 Investigator Heather Catallo. "So you can imagine with all these patients filling up, in New York City, what I imagined was this was going to happen in every city in the country!"

Dr. Kyle-Siddell said rather than oxygen deprivation from a pneumonia-like disease – COVID-19 unexpectedly presented more like high-altitude sickness. He says the traditional air-flow settings of the ventilators may have damaged patients lungs.

"I wanted to take a fresh look at what was going on," he said. "Some of that protocol has shifted. And the notion that we need to put patients on a ventilator right away, while there is still intense debate within the medical community, speaking to doctors around the country, it has shifted."

Now that we’re six months into the pandemic, physicians across the globe realize COVID-19 may be more of a vascular disease rather than strictly a respiratory disease. Dr. Kyle-Siddell said he believes hospitals and doctors did the best that they could with the information they had at the start of the surge.

Now, he’s just calling on researchers and experts to keep learning-- so patients in Detroit and across the country can have the best possible outcomes

"People are making decisions about life or death, with people that are very scared," he said. "And I think that everyone is doing it in good faith."

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

Click here for a page with resources including a COVID-19 overview from the CDC, details on cases in Michigan, a timeline of Governor Gretchen Whitmer's orders since the outbreak, coronavirus' impact on Southeast Michigan, and links to more information from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC and the WHO.

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.

Visit our The Rebound Detroit, a place where we are working to help people impacted financially from the coronavirus. We have all the information on everything available to help you through this crisis and how to access it.