Braving the frontlines: how respiratory therapist are helping during COVID-19

Posted at 5:35 PM, Apr 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-10 17:41:58-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — It's not just doctors and nurses battling COVID-19, respiratory therapists are too. They’re the ones operating the ventilators, one of the most crucial tools in keeping a recovering patient alive.

“It’s rough, it causes some stress," director of respiratory care at Buffalo General Medical and Oshei Children's hospital Marc Leaderstorf said.

And since the start of the crisis, Leaderstorf says, respiratory therapists have been busier than usual.

“You know it’s pretty amazing how they’ve stepped up to respond to this," Leaderstorf said. "Obviously there’s some fear and anxiety over this but almost everyone of the respiratory therapists that work with us are doing it because they want to help others.”

Since COVID-19 is a respiratory virus, Leaderstorf says respiratory therapists are first in line to monitor and assess these patients.

“We give oxygen, we give breathing treatments, we do airway clearance and we take care of the ventilators.”

And he says he’s seen patients as young as 20-years-old on ventilators.

“Nobody’s immune to this. It effects all age groups and patients without previous health issues are also very sick with this," Leaderstorf said. "It’s not to be taken lightly by any means.”

One of the most difficult parts of being a respiratory therapist, Leaderstorf says, is knowing when the virus is going to claim a life.

“The respiratory therapist is actually the one in there taking the patient off the ventilators and one of the last people with the nurse to be with that patient.”

And while this can take an emotional toll, Leaderstorf says his staff is doing Okay.

“They’re holding up remarkably well. They have each others back, they’re stepping up.”

And though respiratory therapist are at the front lines of this pandemic, Leaderstorf says everyone’s efforts make a difference.

“We truly are in this together and we need all facets of the community to help us."