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Respiratory therapists help virus patients catch their breaths again

(Source: WRDW)
(Source: WRDW)(WRDW)
Published: May. 27, 2020 at 9:05 PM EDT
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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

News 12 at 11 o'clock/NBC at 12

AUGUSTA, GA. (WRDW/WAGT) -- As reopening continues across the area, patients are still battling inside AU's COVID-19 unit. And a team of respiratory therapists is with them as close to the frontlines as you can get.

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness and these therapists at Augusta University Health are working right in the airway.

"The respiratory therapists were nervous. They didn’t know what to expect," Jennifer Anderson, director of respiratory care at AU said.

Anderson's team is treating the virus where it causes the most damage, probably as up close and personal as you can get.

"Working in the PPE, they have to don, working in masks all day long is exhausting," Anderson said.

Exhausting and intensive. It takes 15 to 20 minutes to take off their PPE alone.

"We had people trained so that they could help somebody put the special gear on and take it off," Anderson said.

But as the virus spread, they brought in help from across the hospital and started gathering ventilators, a life-saving part of treating the lungs.

"It’s swollen," Anderson said. "It tends to be difficult to move air in and out, and they simply would not be able to breathe if we weren’t able to use a ventilator.”

But having enough was an issue. At the peak, more than 20 COVID-19 patients were on a ventilator, and now it's down to six.

"We not did run out. We did have to rent. We did purchase some additional equipment, but for the most part, I think we were well prepared," Anderson said.

Now AU is breathing a little easier, and these therapists can keep saving lives.

Respiratory therapy is just one way AU is helping COVID-19 patients. AU is also using plasma treatments and an experimental drug to treat those critically sick.

Copyright 2020 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved.

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