I can't say I became an RT because I have asthma, but I can say that asthma lead me in that direction. While I started out attempting other careers, fate lead me to the world of respiratory therapy. I am honored to say that I was hired recently to write asthma posts for the Health Central Network.
My first post was even turned into a cool comic by the infamous Dash Shaw.
"I am your respiratory therapist" was published at myasthmacentral.com on September 16, 2008.
Hello. I am your respiratory therapist. You can call me John. In the blogosphere, we refer to ourselves simply as RTs. For Asthma Central, I plan on sharing with you my asthma experiences and wisdom not just as a lifelong asthmatic, but as an RT who works with asthmatics for a living. My experiences will also be comic strips about asthma drawn by cartoonist Dash Shaw.
You can see the first one here.
Now, you ask, what is an RT, and what's an RT have to do with asthma?
Chances are, unless you have visited my place of employment -- your local hospital -- because you were having trouble breathing, you do not know what an RT is or does.To make a long explanation short, I'm the guy in the white lab coat who gives the breathing treatments that give many asthmatics almost instant relief from an asthma attack.
That's right. When you are laboring, when you feel as though you can't take half a breath, when you start feeling panicked, your RT is the one you most want to see -- that's me.
You come into the ER with breathing trouble. I am usually the first person your nurse will page, even before the doctor, because I have the "magic medicine." As soon as I get the page, I rush down and greet you at your bedside. I empathize with my asthmatic patients because I grew up as an asthmatic, many times in need of an RT. Now I am the RT, ready to return the favor.
In my hand is a plastic bag with some parts in it and oxygen tubing."Hi, I'm Rick from respiratory therapy," I say, "Are you having trouble breathing?"It's a rhetorical question, because I can clearly see you ARE having trouble breathing. You sit on the edge of the bed with your palms pressed down on either side of the bed, your arms fully extended and your shoulders hunched high as you struggle to exhale. Your lips are blue, your face pale.
"I... can't... breath..." you gasp."Have you ever had a breathing treatment before?" I ask as I rip the bag open and set the contents on the bedside table. I fumble with them a minute as I piece together a nebulizer, which looks like a futuristic peace pipe."No," you say.I reach deep into my pocket and pull out a vial of medicine, rip open the top, and squeeze the contents into the cup of the nebulizer, hook the oxygen tubing to it, plug the other end of the tubing to a flowmeter and the device hisses and bubbles to life, producing a fine white mist.I hand the device to you.
"This is a breathing treatment. Put it in your mouth, clench it between your teeth, and breathe normal. If you're having bronchospasms, this should help you feel better in no time."
You grab the peace pipe and click the white, plastic mouthpiece into your mouth and attempt an inhalation. A full breath does not come. Your breaths are short and choppy."Concentrate on your breathing. There's a magic mist in here called Albuterol, which I often refer to as All-betterol. It relaxes your lung muscles. It usually works pretty fast," I say.
You watch the mist disappear into the blue corrugated tubing as you breathe in, and it billows through the room as you exhale. With each breath, you're able to breathe a little deeper.