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Ventilator and other Medical Devices Threatening to People with Power Outages

David Taylor has relied on a Ventilator to breathe for four decades, the whoosh of the pump part of his everyday metronome. Then, on the night of Feb. 14, the Texas power grid was overwhelmed by an Arctic blast. The power went out the next morning in the 65-year-Fort old’s Worth house, which he shares with his mother.

David’s Ventilator switched to a replacement battery at some stage and continued to operate. A family member brought a generator over and spent several hours unsuccessfully attempting to get it to function in the sub-zero temperatures. According to David’s 89-year-old mother, Dorothy Taylor, the one-story house had been without electricity for about 12 hours by nightfall, with the exception of an hour or so when the lights briefly switched on.

The temperature had fallen to the mid-fifties inside. David, who suffers from muscular dystrophy, stayed in bed, surrounded by blankets. Dorothy kept one eye on the clock, unsure how much longer the backup battery in her son’s car would last. She says, “I couldn’t wait ’til the last minute. He would die within minutes.” Most families in Texas were dealing with similar issues.

From Feb. 15 to 17, the ambulance company MedStar, which serves the greater Fort Worth area, received more than 50 calls involving patients with life-sustaining medical devices and no electricity, including Dorothy’s. Ralph Riviello, a San Antonio emergency room doctor, informed Undark that during the crisis, about 18 to 24 people turned up at his hospital, looking for medical equipment to be recharged. A 75-year-old man died in his truck near Houston; his family claims he went out to get a spare oxygen tank from the car after losing power at his home.

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