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When the Power Failed, So Did Their Lifeline

Texas COVID patients relying on oxygen machines were endangered in their own homes
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 9, 2021 6:29 PM CST

(Newser) – "It was terrifying." So recalls Daysi Marin of watching her husband struggle to breathe for two days during the prolonged power outage in Texas. Mauricio Marin, 44, had been sent home from the hospital in Richmond with an oxygen machine as he recovered from COVID-19, reports ProPublica. But when the power went out, so did his lifeline. The Marins say Mauricio might have died had a neighbor not responded to a Facebook plea and showed up at their door with a six-hour supply that sustained him until the power came back on. As the story explains, Marin is not alone. In the days and weeks before the power grid failed, overwhelmed Texas hospitals sent home thousands of COVID patients with breathing equipment. It isn't clear if any of them died during the blackout, but many were forced out into the storm to return to hospitals.

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"It was really devastating for them," says Dr. Bela Patel, chief of critical care medicine at UTHealth’s McGovern Medical School. "They were panicking because they weren't getting enough oxygen, their oxygen levels were dropping, and they were trying to figure out what they could do." In Mauricio's case, the couple felt travel in their area was too dangerous. And while Mauricio finally got a needed boost of oxygen, the hours he spent trying to parcel out his supply likely put a strain on his already taxed respiratory system, which could prolong or even endanger his recovery from the virus. Others are in the same boat. Already, at least three COVID patients, including Mauricio, have filed lawsuits against state energy officials and their power companies because they say the outage worsened their cases. (Click to read the full story.)

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