What in God’s name is a Respiratory Therapist (RT)? Simply stated, they are medical professionals who specialize in providing healthcare for your lungs. They are not techs – do not make the mistake of calling them techs (you can thank me later). They are therapists with bachelor’s, masters, and/or associates degrees and can specialize in a load of different things while holding advanced certifications in life saving techniques.
My husband is a Registered Respiratory Therapist here in Baton Rouge. That fact never brought fear to my heart in the past. He works night shifts primarily in the ER at a major hospital, so the worst thing I could think of happening to him was maybe a patient attempted to attack him. I couldn’t think of anything truly life-altering happening – I mean I am not the terrified wife of a police officer or firefighter or a military wife… I’m the wife of a man that loves learning medicine and truly cares about correct and thorough patient care.
As this virus started coming into the picture, he and his colleagues had a feeling of how monumental this would be. I’m here thinking it was the media pumping this up – not actually believing something would cross the ocean into our safe USA and as the youngins say: “nothing ever happens to me here in #Merica”… Then it felt like this huge shift has happened so fast. Even though we have technically known about this virus since November/December 2019 when it was an epidemic, which is defined as a disease that affects a bunch of people suddenly, has now become a pandemic which means it is affecting the whole world. Should we have been more prepared? What happens if we don’t act fast now?
I feel like this past weekend marked the first three days of this virus making its mark in Baton Rouge. It has been in New Orleans a bit longer and longer still throughout the country and world. After working a 12+ hour night shift, my husband, who usually is excited to talk about how he nailed an art line, intubated, got his hands inside someone’s chest to massage their heart, or dealt with lung mucus, instead came home exhausted. Instead of coming home to tell me about his night – as if I had a Ph.D. in more than just being his wife – he brought the sobering message that he will be volunteering to work in the new COVID unit and we need to talk about how our son should leave our home. As a Respiratory Therapist, he is at high risk of being infected and by turn so are we, and we cannot put our child in danger. Yes, from what we understand so far, this doesn’t affect kids the way it affects immunocompromised or older adults, but the little nugget can easily become a carrier and that’s too much of a risk.
This morning I wept as I packed his clothes, toys, board games, books, costumes, snacks. I wept at the thought of not knowing when it will be safe for him to return home. I wept knowing my husband is so dedicated and determined to care for his patients that he volunteered his time to work the next fifteen nights consecutively and volunteered to help on nights for the foreseeable future. It was no surprise to me he wanted to do his part to help with this pandemic. I wept at the thought of the people in our community that do not understand the sacrifices that our hospitals are making for their patients – FOR US! Countless sacrifices from the Doctors, to RTs, nurses, the environment staff, security guards, administration, CDC, World Health Organization, local government, and other staff that are behind the scenes doing everything they can do help – it is taking a village!
Let’s ask ourselves as informed adults – what are we doing to help?
Are we panic buying out all the supplies like masks that our hospitals need to be able to care for our family members in a safe way? Are we practicing prudent and authentic social distancing to stop the spread of this catastrophic virus? Are we taking this seriously at all?
We had to make the informed and excruciating decision to send our child away since my husband is at high risk of contracting due to the nature of his work. I do not know when things will be normal again and when our family can be home together again. It rips me to shreds to think about what my family and other medical families are sacrificing to protect everyone from this rapid moving pandemic. I ache to my core when I think about families throughout the world that have lost their loved ones and it could have been minimized by something as simple as hand washing and social distancing. It is not just us; all medical staff must take precautions for their children and family members as we did today. When you go to bed tonight, think of our local hospitals who are filled to the brim and working to exhaustion to save our neighbors, families, and friends …all while completing the usual day to day hospital tasks.
What if the decision people are making to go on a cheap vacation spreads this virus to thousands? I believe we truly do not have the resources or proper understanding of what hospitals are going through right now. This is a new virus and uncharted territory for everyone involved.
To give you an idea of the lengths medical staff must go through to stay safe, my husband shared with me that before entering each room, he has to put on protective clothing, a special mask, and goggles. This is a time-consuming process. Waiting for the positive or negative test result is a time-consuming process that can take days. Having to change out of the protective gear, clean the goggles in a special solution, discard the mask, getting new gear and a new mask to go into the next patient’s room is time-consuming, all without contaminating his own clothes and equipment around him. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
He will do this night after night.
He will make the sacrifices needed to care for his patients and slow this pandemic.
This is real.
This is happening in our backyard and around the world.
I am the wife of a man, who is one of many trying to spread the message of proper health and safety to protect the public in our town, city, country, and world.
Let’s do our part.
Please, for the love of God and all that is Holy, take this virus seriously before we have to make the difficult choices being made in Italy.