Take a slow deep breath in. Now let that breath out. Repeat this two or three times. While taking these deep breaths, notice how easily the air moves in and out of your lungs. This should be the case for anyone with normal lung function. Most of us don’t think about our breathing. Like the beat of our heart, lungs move air in and out of our body without us having to even think about it. But when an individual contracts COVID-19, suddenly they may have to consciously think about every breath.
People with a severe case of COVID-19 experience severe shortness of breath. Every breath can be a struggle to fight for air. This fight causes discomfort and hypoxemia, which is a low level of oxygen in the bloodstream. Like the food we eat, oxygen serves as fuel for your body. When oxygen levels run low our body cannot function properly and that’s when a respiratory therapist is called in to help normalize the vital function of breathing.
At this point in the pandemic, we have all been affected by COVID-19. Many of us have known someone who has contracted COVID-19, or we have contracted it ourselves. According to the CDC, 2.9 million Americans have been hospitalized due to complications of COVID-19. Undoubtedly, these 2.9 million Americans were touched by a respiratory therapist. Respiratory therapists have administered breathing treatments, oxygen, high flow oxygen and positive pressure ventilation. They have also placed people on life-saving ventilators in the most severe cases of COVID-19. This is a highly complex job that needs monitoring and adjustment 24/7, especially with the nuances of COVID-19. Even before the pandemic, respiratory therapy played a vital role in healthcare for many years. For example, a respiratory therapist works with patients on life support in the ICU and premature babies with underdeveloped lungs. They administer respiratory medications to people with lung conditions like asthma, COPD, and pulmonary fibrosis, and are part of every trauma and rapid response team assisting with emergent, lifesaving care.
National Respiratory Care Week is October 24th – 30th and we would like to give special recognition to Island Hospital’s Respiratory Care team who have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to save lives.
Thank you to: Steven, Jake, Justin, Nancy, Leslie, Jeff, Ingrid, Becky, Betsy, Ericka, Sarah, Rebecca, Don and Amber.
Breath is life; breath is comfort; breath is vitality. Thank you to all respiratory therapists, for restoring breath for all of those who have had to think about their breath this year. Thank you for taking time away from your families, so that others can live another day to be home with theirs.