Respiratory Therapy is a fairly new profession, which is why you’ve probably never heard of it. I hadn’t either until a couple of years ago;
Right after graduating high school (grad 2013!) I got very sick. At the time I thought it was just a virus so I didn’t think too much of it. I had a stuffy nose, a cough and phlegm (yuck, sorry), common symptoms of a cold.
A couple of weeks went by and I was still having upper respiratory issues. One night i woke up due to not being able to breathe and coughing fits. Unsure of what to do I woke up my mom (everyone needs their mom when their sick). Because she could hear my chest wheezing with every breath, she is she insisted we go to the hospital.
When we got there, the emergency room was pretty quiet, considering it was like 3:30 am. After quickly going through Triage and getting some vitals taken, we were escorted into a hospital bed. I had someone come in and explain to me what would be done. Oxygen flow and a drug called Ventolin were being administered to me through a mask to help me breath. A pulse ox was placed on my finger to constantly monitor my oxygen saturation. Multiple individuals came by and listened to my chest. Every one of them said it sounded awful, which wasn’t to comforting.
Close to 20 minutes went by and a couple rounds of “nebs” later they took me off to X-ray. My guess was I had pneumonia, it was the only thing I could think of? The X-ray came back as “normal”, so no pneumonia. This is when the Respiratory Therapist came and talked to me. She took a family history, past medical history, list of medications, the whole deal. She was, I guess you could say stumped on why I was having these major respiratory issues.
The Ventolin and oxygen did help my chest loosen up and I was able to breathe a lot better. I was sent home and told to come back if i was experiencing any more problems breathing. A viral infection was the diagnosis and I was told it should clear up in no time.
That wasn’t the case. Less then a week later I was back in the emergency room at Delta Hospital with the same issue. Again, treated by and RT as before. This time I was put on and IV medication, i think it was a steroid but i could be wrong. I was prescribed Prednisone (aka, the “wonder drug”) and a rescue inhaler to take home. The health care team told me I had all the symptoms of Asthma.
Even though I had no past history of asthma, while doing a follow up with my doctor, he suggested I take a pulmonary function test. This is a test that aids in the diagnosis of asthma, it measures lung flow, lung volume, capacity and gas exchange.
The results of the test indicated I indeed do have asthma. My lungs at that time were working about 75% lol. The sudden onset of my asthma was explained by a change in my allergies. Turns out I am now allergic to pretty much everything (yay me!).
Years later and the right medication, my lungs have improved to 83% and my asthma is finally under control.
That time of my life was very difficult for me to undergo. I went from playing soccer and going to the gym daily to not being able to walk up the stairs without being out of breath. Even though it was such a negative time, one positive thing came out of it.
Due to all the time I spent in the hospital, engaging with Respiratory Therapists, I got quite interested in the profession. I knew I always wanted to work in health care but wasn’t sure where. I asked the RT’s about their day to day roles, the schooling they went through and if they enjoyed the profession. I got so much positive feedback from them I decided to do more research on my own.
I came across the Respiratory Therapy program offered at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops. After more research and a sit down with my family and boyfriend I decided it was what i wanted to do.
Now, here I am, days before my fourth semester of the program and I couldn’t be happier (I could do without all the midterms though).