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Respiratory Care Teams Are the MVPs of CF Care

As a person with cystic fibrosis, I’ve formed close-knit relationships with care providers in multiple disciplines.

Before my double-lung transplant three years ago, I was hospitalized frequently. I would be hospitalized for a couple weeks, out for a few, and then back in again. So the cycle went. My respiratory care team was intricate to my well-being, and they’ve made a profound difference in my life.

That’s why I’d like to honor them today, during National Respiratory Care Week.

It’s no surprise that respiratory therapists are my favorite. (Please don’t tell the other care providers!) Before my transplant, I looked forward to each of their visits while I was in the hospital.

I welcomed the four daily treatments because my lungs were constantly congested. I couldn’t start my day without having a treatment, because if I ate first, vomiting would be sure to follow. These therapists knew my routine and respected my schedule.

Caring about others is really about the little things. It means the world to me when people remember the small details that bring me happiness. This is the epitome of what the respiratory team did. They knew exactly how I wanted my nebulizer cups, which airway clearance I preferred, and the specific times I wanted treatments. We always synchronized and worked as a team.

That’s easy to do when team members are incredible individuals in their own unique ways. Not only did they provide treatments for me, but also comfort, encouragement, and humor.

They understood the lung involvement of CF because they had worked in that area more intimately than anyone else. Hacking up wads of mucous balls was as exciting for them as it was me. They loved cheering me on to get that stuff up and out!

They also witnessed my sickest moments. They taught me how to “get used to” high-flow oxygen in the ICU. They watched as I coughed so hard I threw up. They taught me how to use the intimidating BiPAP machine. A select few ran with me while I dragged my oxygen, and one even carried my tank while running alongside me. Some sat and watched me run while they ate my snacks, but that’s a story for another time. (Kidding!)

The purpose of this was for me to do my airway clearance treatment, but it involved so much more. Members of the team knew how determined I was, and they didn’t dim my shine, but rather encouraged me to do what I wanted. They pushed me because they knew my goals.

From supportive management to therapists, they all made a difference. Although I no longer “need” that care team due to my transplant, they will always be an important part of my hospital family. I miss catching up with them about the goings-on in their lives.

Frequently seeing people like that when we’re sick helps us to form special bonds. Some of them are now my dearest friends, and we “do life” together.

To me, members of this healthcare specialty don’t receive enough credit, because frankly, most people don’t understand what they do. I’m grateful the pandemic has shone a light on how essential their piece of the puzzle in the hospital is. COVID-19 has brought attention to a specialty department that rarely receives the accolades they deserve.

My heart will always have a soft spot for these unseen heroes. I am grateful for the times they’ve saved my life and carried me through the most difficult moments. To know that others truly understand the magnitude of my journey is one of life’s greatest gifts.

To all the respiratory care team members in every capacity: I see you. I honor you. And I admire you. Your presence, influence, and work are important, and those of us with CF are better human beings because of you. Thank you for being you.


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