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Saturday, September 9, 2023

Did Asthma Lead Me To My Job As An RT?

Did asthma cause you to become a respiratory therapist? Because I'm so open about my asthma I get asked this question quite a bit. And the answer is both yes and no. 

As a child, I felt most at ease having deep conversations about God and life in general with my mom, rather than my dad. My mother always had an approachable and open demeanor, making our discussions easy. However, there were a few occasions when my dad offered me his concise advice. Typically, these moments happened when we were alone, such as during a hospital visit when I was the patient.

I vividly recall one incident during a Thanksgiving trip to Uncle Torrin's in Indiana when I had to go to the ER. I was sitting up on the ER bed, waiting for the doctor's assessment after my breathing had stabilized. In that comforting atmosphere, my dad quipped, "Have you ever considered pursuing a career as a respiratory therapist? With your lifelong experience dealing with asthma, I believe you could genuinely connect with your future patients."

Dad often shared his advice on various occasions, usually as a brief remark, as mentioned before. Rarely did he elaborate further. On one occasion, perhaps in our backyard when it was just the two of us, he added, "You have the freedom to choose your path, but if I were in your shoes, I'd seriously contemplate becoming a respiratory therapist. It truly seems like the perfect fit for you."
And I heeded dad's advice. I was actually kind of excited about the prospects of being a respiratory therapist and 

Honestly, I found it intriguing when my dad broached this topic. There was a part of me that felt a bit frustrated because he didn't delve deeper into the conversation or take it to a more profound level. However, that was simply how my dad was; he spoke his piece and left it at that. As a teenager, I often didn't know how to respond. I might have remained silent, leading to an awkward pause, or perhaps I simply replied with a brief, "Okay." 

Dad's words of wisdom continued to resonate in the recesses of my mind. Then, during my Junior year, an exciting opportunity presented itself at West Shore Community College: a career day featuring a discussion on respiratory therapy. My anticipation grew as I learned about this event, and I couldn't wait to attend.

The event took place in a spacious room at the college, large enough that one of the stations was stationed next to an ambulance. Looking back, I suspect the ambulance was part of the paramedic career presentation, but at the time, I mistakenly thought it was related to respiratory therapy. The respiratory therapy table was conveniently placed right next to the ambulance, which is where I eagerly listened to what the RT had to say about the profession.

In my typically shy manner, instead of asking probing questions to gain a deeper understanding of the field, I blurted out, "Do you have to take chemistry to become an RT?" The RT kindly responded that indeed, I would need to pass at least one chemistry class. This response sent a wave of concern through me because, at that moment, I was struggling in my chemistry class.

Although I was genuinely interested in pursuing a career as an RT, my fear of that challenging chemistry course ultimately influenced my decision not to choose this path when I was eventually accepted to Ferris State University. So, as it got closer and closer to that time I would have to decide, I started leaning towards being a teacher. I loved kids. I loved the idea of helping children learn. And so I thought it would be neat to be a teacher. 

Still lacking confidence in whether this would be the right career path for me, I resolved to seek advice from a couple of the teachers I held in high regard. However, approaching teachers, even those I admired, proved to be a daunting challenge for me. Initiating conversations and approaching people did not come naturally to me.

One day, at a baseball game where I was watching my younger brother, I noticed Mr. Anderson standing near the fence. Summoning my courage, I positioned myself next to him and, in my usual soft-spoken voice, asked him if teaching might be a suitable career choice for me. Mr. Anderson was known for his laid-back and easy-going demeanor, which is precisely why I chose to approach him. He exuded optimism, and I assumed he would have positive insights to share about the teaching profession.

To my disappointment, Mr. Anderson did not paint a rosy picture of teaching. He remarked, "It might not be the best profession for you. The financial rewards are rather limited." 

Nonetheless, I remained determined to seek advice from the other teacher I had in mind. Regrettably, I can't recall his name, but I do remember that he was an English teacher who, like Mr. Anderson, had a friendly and approachable demeanor. I assumed he would be an easy person to talk to. However, due to my social anxiety, I still struggled to muster the courage to approach him.

Finally, one day, he initiated a conversation with me on a different topic, and I seized the opportunity to ask, "Do you think teaching would be a suitable career for me?" To my disappointment, his response echoed Mr. Anderson's discouragement: "There's not much financial reward in teaching. It can be quite a disheartening profession."

Indeed, it was a frustrating turn of events. I had discovered a career path I genuinely desired, yet my confidence wavered, and the two individuals I had hoped would boost my spirits let me down.

Consequently, when I sat down a week later to fill out the forms sent to me by the administrators at Ferris, I didn't select teaching as my first choice; instead, I reserved it for my second option. Surprisingly, I opted for journalism as my primary choice. The decision was somewhat spontaneous, influenced by the fact that I was taking a journalism class at the time. Although I had a passion for writing, I mostly envisioned writing as a side pursuit rather than a full-fledged career path. 

As a result, I didn't immediately pursue respiratory therapy after high school. Instead, I embarked on a two-year journey to explore the world of journalism.

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