Respiratory Therapists play key role in coronavirus fight


SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Local respiratory therapists are playing a critical role in the COVID-19 battle. This often-overlooked sector of medicine has come to the forefront of this crisis.

Respiratory Therapists (RT) are on the front lines of COVID-19 and at Memorial Health they are treating the sickest of the sick while making sure their health is well.

Brandy Bielak is the Director of Respiratory at Memorial Health and said they’re doing the best they can during these demanding times.

“You know it’s challenging, it’s a tough time. I think we’re all under a lot of stress personally,” Bielak said.

They’re holding it together though to keep their patients safe. RT’s have become crucial to patients suffering from the worst symptoms. This group is now providing critical care to those struggling to breathe.

“We deal with the sickest of the sick. We are used to patients having trouble breathing and so we’re that person that’s always ready to go and make sure that we have the appropriate equipment and support,” Bielak said.

Respiratory Care Manager Jackie Jenkins has walked the hospital floors of Memorial Health for the last decade. She said some forget the value of an RT.

“I think we’ve been in the shadows for quite some time. We have always been there. Yes, we do depend on the physician and we depend on the nurse,” Jenkins said.

But with a disease such as this where respiratory has been called to the forefront, these physicians are called on to manage the airway and ventilator. They’re doing all of this while risking catching the virus themselves.

“If we have a patient that’s not doing well and they need to have a breathing tube placed we have these shields that they actually use. It’s a plastic box that has openings for them to be able to intubate safely without having too much exposure,” Bielak said.

They’re ready at the blink of an eye when a patient starts to change course.

“It’s great when they can talk to you because that way you know exactly how they’re doing you know how they’re feeling. When they’re on the ventilator they’re on sedation and they really can’t talk to you until we wake them up which can be uncomfortable,” Bielak said.

With the country slowly opening back up they ask that all keep their distance from each other, wear masks, and practice good hygiene. They say at your call they’ll be there.

“24 hours a day in all areas of the hospital respiratory therapist have been there,” Jenkins said.

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