Say Their Name

April 2, 2020 1:33 p.m.

An important note from TPM Reader JR

I worked 40 years in healthcare. I am a Registered Respiratory Therapist. I am retired and live in a rural county with zero Covid-19 at this time. I practiced in the Chicago area. This means that my friends and former co-workers are risking their lives treating patients infected with Covid-19. I think (actually, know for sure) that Doctors are some of the most wonderful people in the world. What they go through in their training and education is superhuman. Their heads are the same size as everyone else, but somehow they carry multi-volume encyclopedias in there. I also absolutely love Nurses (so much so that I have been married to one for 39 years last Saturday) as a group they are intelligent, compassionate and caring – also wonderful. To hear these two groups lauded as the heroes that they are every day in the media lately is great.

Covid-19 is a respiratory virus. The sickest patients end up on ventilators. Before someone can be placed on a ventilator they need to be intubated. This placement of an endotracheal tube is a “superspreader” event, spraying the virus at those placing the tube like water from a garden hose. In some places it is a Respiratory Therapist placing that tube. More often it is a Doctor, with a Respiratory Therapist standing shoulder to shoulder, assisting as needed and securing the tube once it is in place. The Respiratory Therapist then attaches the ventilator to the patient, adjusts it to deliver the settings the doctor has ordered, then maintains and monitors the ventilator. The Respiratory Therapist has primary responsibility for the patients airway. This includes periodically removing virus laden secretions from the patient’s airway and monitoring and adjusting the many settings on the ventilator to achieve efficient ventilation. Yes, there are Doctors and Nurses in the world who are competent to initiate and operate mechanical ventilators, but they are in the minority. In the USA, when someone is on a ventilator, you can generally assume it is being operated by a Respiratory Therapist.

I consume a lot of news. I used to think I was without religion. One day years ago I realized the Health Care is my religion. News related to healthcare, especially public health issues is my catnip. In all that I have heard, seen and read I recall hearing the words Respiratory Therapist one time. That was by the fantastic Governor Cuomo of New York. My former co-workers and those of my profession are risking their lives every day. Perhaps the media could at least say their name.

Most people who work in hospitals are not Doctors or Nurses, there are many members of the Health Care Team, they all work together to treat patients. When we talk about football teams do we just say coaches and quarterbacks? Nurses Aids, known by many titles like CNA or Nursing assistant are minimum wage workers who do all the backbreaking and disgusting stuff with minimum recognition. Housekeepers clean up the mess often without knowing the dangers they face. The list goes on and on, they are all risking their lives in this crisis.

I’m 63 years old, and don’t trust my brain or hands to do the important work I used to do anymore. Also poor pay and lack of respect in today’s modern factory mentality hospital have made me no longer want to participate. I ask you to do two things: When you write Ventilators add and Respiratory Therapists to operate them. When you write about Health Care Workers, don’t write Doctors and Nurses, Write HEALTH CARE WORKERS. (ever hear the phrase it takes a village? of course you have)

I love TPM, and I love you. Opening the paywall for Covid-19 info has shown me I need to sign up and pay to be there all the time, money is tight, but your team is worth it.
Thanks for reading my late night ramble. Stay safe, and please — They are risking their lives—say their name.

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