It is eerily quiet in the hospital unit caring for Manitoba’s sickest flu patients.
There’s no coughing, no TVs blaring. The patients are in isolation rooms behind glass, on ventilators, hooked up to monitors and feeding tubes — and heavily sedated.
If they were wide awake, they’d feel like they’re drowning.
"For many patients, it’s a very terrible sensation," says the chief medical officer at Health Sciences Centre, Dr. Perry Gray.
Welcome to the front lines of the battle against the H1N1 virus in Manitoba.
The hardest-hit victims of the virus — the "ICU flu" — are in isolation at the Health Sciences Centre and St. Boniface General Hospital intensive care units with tubes down their throats, sick as hell and struggling to get enough oxygen.
The flu has damaged their lungs and they need help to breathe. For one woman, it has also damaged her kidneys. She’s hooked up to a dialysis machine 24-7, heavily sedated and unaware.
The medical intensive care unit is "chock-a-block" full at HSC, with close to all of the rooms occupied.
"It’s pretty overwhelming," Dr. Brian Postl forewarned a first-time visitor. The head of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority didn’t exaggerate.
For the full story, see today's newspaper or our fpNews electronic edition.