Ventilators: a bridge between life and death
Organisation size: Big
Publication date: 21 Apr 2020
Credit: Samuel Granados and Kate Kelland
Ventilators are mechanical breathing devices that use pressure to blow air – or a mixture of gases such as oxygen and air – into the lungs. They are crucial for people with impending lung failure, one of the complications suffered by patients with severe cases of COVID-19.
During the early days of the pandemic there were ventilator shortages and discussions on alternatives, ventilator-sharing and emergency measures. Reuters took a closer look at these machines and measures in the context of COVID-19 and the ways it affects the lungs and body.
As alternative therapies have emerged the focus on long-term ventilation has shifted, this piece arrived at a critical moment of the pandemic and shed light on the risks and benefits these machines offered.
What was the hardest part of this project?
Nailing the precise scientific details and presenting them in an engaging illustrative way was a challenge. Studies of the interactions of COVID-19 patients on ventilators did not yet exist explaining how the disease attacks the lungs and body, and how ventilators work involved synthesizing disparate lines of research into a cohesive narrative.
What can others learn from this project?
Process journalism is data-journalism. Understanding how a process works can be critical to making informed decisions, in this case on the efficacy and potential need for a technology. We, as data-journalists, tend to focus on the outcomes, what do the numbers say, but sometimes the process that results in those outcomes are of equal value.