Hospital teams trained in the “swimmer pose” that saves lives

“Occupational therapists generally deal with patients with neurological disease, so they are used to moving and handling patients who have had a stroke,” she said.

Recumbent teams typically involve a doctor or intensive care nurse managing the airway at the head of the patient and a senior physiotherapist overseeing movement, while nurses and other assistants are positioned around the rest of the patient.

The entire procedure typically takes around 20 minutes with the patient heavily sedated, said Dr Haines.

“The position is called the swimmer pose. It is as if you are freestyle, so you have one arm raised above your head and the head is turned to the side, with the patient ventilated with an endotracheal tube.

Cabrini Health’s assistant director of intensive care, associate professor David Brewster, said he recently had a patient in the unit who was now almost fully recovered after being placed in the supine position for several days.

He said patients were typically left prone for 16 hours, and research had shown that the survival of people with severe acute respiratory distress syndrome was significantly improved.

“It improves oxygenation almost immediately,” he said.

In the meantime, speech-language pathologists are also bracing for an influx of patients with coroanvirus – a scenario that continues to seem less likely as Victoria moves forward with removing new cases.

Lauren Belleli, speech-language pathologist at Western Health, said some coronavirus patients may need help communicating as they recover from a long stay in intensive care.

Ms Belleli said that for patients with a tracheostomy cannula, one option might be to use a valve that sits above the cannula and allows patients to talk, but not everyone was able to tolerate it.

She said in those cases, they might have to get creative – using an alphabet or charts of pictures that patients could point to, nod their heads or even use gaze to communicate.

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