Respiratory therapists play a critical role during the COVID-19 pandemic. A big part of their job is focused on helping patients with COVID-19 breathe through a ventilator. This puts them at a greater risk of infection, as they come in close contact with these patients.
For Elma Hadani Sanusi, her journey as a respiratory therapist at Sengkang General Hospital (SKH) commenced just as the world was heading into the pandemic. She shares her experience working during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The rising numbers in the recent months have been a cause of concern. Things are happening so quickly that there is almost a sense of déjà vu. It brings back memories of the circuit breaker last year, as well as my team intubating SKH's first case of COVID-19.
When more cases were admitted into the intensive care unit (ICU) this year, our respiratory therapy team was challenged with a heavier workload. Due to the small team, we had to be flexible and work in split teams. Despite the immense stress, we managed to stay afloat by constantly cheering each other on, and knowing that our patients need us.
Having to witness our patients' struggle for air, as well as the fear in their eyes when we explain that we have to insert a breathing tube, was heartbreaking. As patients with COVID-19 are not allowed visitors, we always take the time to communicate with them while doing our daily assessments.
We tell them that we are always there for them – not only because it is our job to do so, but because we are their family in the hospital and are fighting alongside them. When our patients extend their hands and put their trust in us, the team is motivated to strive and do our very best. The most rewarding part of the journey is taking our patients off the breathing machine, and seeing them take in breaths of air with smiles on their faces!
I remember a patient – after being successfully extubated (removal of the breathing tube) – telling us that while he was on the breathing tube, he could hear the medical staff in the ICU telling him to keep fighting, and that his children have been waiting eagerly for him to go home. That gave him the courage and hope that he would survive the ordeal and make a full recovery.
To my fellow healthcare workers who have been working tirelessly ever since this pandemic struck, thank you for committing yourselves to this fight. Be proud of the work that you do and the person that you are. Together, we will continue to make a difference in the lives of others.
To the public, we appreciate the gestures of love and gratitude that you have extended to us. Do stay safe and informed of the latest safe management measures. We will survive this dark storm together.