Covid and I, the RT

Imagine for a minute that you are out on the water in a small boat, dinghy per se. You’re there and someone in the water needs help, comes up close to the boat so you throw them a lifesaver to help them float. They hang on, and with a little work, you are able to pull them into the boat and get them over to the shore.

Then another person in the water comes close to you on the boat. This person is a fairly good swimmer, but is looking a little tired. You throw them a lifesaver. They reach for it and hang on for a bit until they can go on their way swimming, reaching the beach on their own.

You are then confronted by another person in the water. This person never stands a chance. By the time you see them, they are already sinking and although you throw them a lifesaver, they can’t even TRY to hang on. They are so weak. They don’t even realize what’s really happening. You can’t reach them and they sink under water and drown.

Finally, the last person you come across out there in the middle of the ocean is in a panic. He’s struggling to hang on to the lifesaver you’ve thrown him and he’s frantic. He’s so anxious! He knows what will happen if he lets go. You don’t know how he made it this far. Splashing everywhere.

Yelling, “I CAN’T SWIM! I CAN’T SWIM!!” You’re frantically trying to help! Reaching. Pulling. All while he’s fighting in a panic. The lifesaver you throw him breaks and he starts to sink. You quickly find another lifesaver to throw him and desperately he hangs on for a bit, but in all his anxiety and frenzied grabbing and splashing, he starts to sink and eventually you just can’t reach him and there’s nothing left you can do.

This has been COVID for me as a healthcare provider.

A respiratory therapist.

I come across many patients everyday. Some just need a little help. Maybe a little oxygen, sometimes more; some high flow oxygen. Some need more than others. A BiPAP perhaps. And that’s all they need from me and maybe some other meds currently used in the standard of care for Covid. They start improving and eventually leave the hospital.

Most people come in walking and talking. Maybe a little short of breath, and do everything that is asked of them; laying on their stomach for days, exercising their lungs, and taking deep breaths, but still end up getting intubated.

Those are the ones of nightmares. Some of them perfectly healthy people until now. The last thing they say to me, “I CAN’T DO IT! I CAN’T BREATH! I CAN’T BREATHE!!” Frantic. Breathing 50-60 times a minute, (Try doing that for even one minute... exhausting) as I’m about to intubate them... as the

23 year old girl did, who had been FaceTiming her family the night before.


I will remember this for the rest of my life.

I try to reassure them, be gentle and calm, “I’m going to be looking in your mouth and will help you breath.” for my voice will be the last one they hear, maybe forever.

We will help them breathe. And we will take really good care of them. We do, alongside the nurses and doctors.

And then still, they mostly die. I see that 1% every day at work.

The 1% that get really sick and die. Those are my patients.

So yes. Most of you will be okay. But if I have a skewed view of this disease, this is why.

If you don’t know what I do and have never met an RT in the hospital setting, be glad. We take care of the sickest of the sick. And in this respiratory pandemic we take care of most every one who comes through the hospital doors.

COVID does not discriminate, we have seen it wipe out entire families. The old and young, healthy and unhealthy. While no one is perfect, we try our best to social distance, wear our masks, and stay home when we’re not feeling well.

Get the vaccine if you can, because the consequence of not getting it can be deadly.

With that I ask that you please take care of yourselves and each other. And please keep us in your prayers as we’ve lost dear coworkers, friends, and family members while fighting to save others.

Thank you for reading.

This story is part of a Healthcare Workers collection.