Heather Williams

Heather’s Frontline Story: Respiratory Therapy During COVID-19

Oct 28 2021

With a lot of the national dialogue surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic being focused on frontline doctors and nurses, it’s important to recognize some of our staff members who may fly under that radar a bit. Our respiratory therapists work hand-in-hand with other team members to provide expert care to those who need it most – now maybe more than ever.

Meet Heather Williams – a respiratory therapist at Mercy Health – Springfield Regional Medical Center. We sat down with her to get her perspective on what it’s really like leading an effort against a virus that attacks the lungs and respiratory system.

“Going into health care, you know there is always a possibility to have to go above and beyond for any type of disaster, including a worldwide pandemic, but you just try your best to stay prepared and learn along the way,” she shares.

Heather believes it’s her training and past experiences have played the biggest role in being prepared for what the pandemic has thrown her way.

“I was blessed to learn respiratory care from those I would consider to be the best of the best in respiratory care instructors at Sinclair Community College,” she says. “I came to Mercy Health just a few months before COVID hit, and luckily I have a strong background in critical care and have been able to use my skills to help take care of our patients during this crazy time.”

You may not even know or just have a guess as to what a respiratory therapist does. And hopefully, Heather explains, it can stay that way.

“Many people don’t know what a respiratory therapist is until they or a family member are sick in the hospital with trouble breathing. Hopefully you can get through your hospital stay without ever seeing us.”

Heather adds, “essentially, we help our patients breathe better and sometimes even breathe for them.”

And that’s not all that respiratory therapists are responsible for.

“As much as we take part in the life-saving role, in some cases where we’ve done everything we can, we also help our patients to die with dignity by compassionately taking them off of life support.”

With such difficult and taxing responsibilities on the care team, Heather leans on her coworkers to keep providing the compassionate care she’s always strived to deliver.

“My teammates have been beyond supportive. We have cried together many times and continue to try and be there for each other and lift each other up. We are more than coworkers – we are a family and this pandemic has brought us even closer.” 

It’s not unusual to hear tired, taxed and sometimes frustrated frontline health care providers talk about the need to lean on each other to get through what can feel like an endless slog, and Heather is no different.

“Working on the frontlines throughout a pandemic has no doubt changed all of us. It has been one of the most challenging things I’ve gone through, but I’m proud to play such an important role. It’s been a privilege to work beside amazing respiratory therapists, nurses, doctors and many other health care workers. Life can change in the blink of an eye and I have a different perspective on things after what I’ve been through.”

Heather has a message for her fellow therapists.

“To my fellow RTs, it’s been a tough year and a half, and you continue to show up day in and day out for your team and continue to impress me with your hard work and dedication to your patients. Each and every one of you is a rock star!”

Happy Respiratory Care Week to all our respiratory care team members! Learn about the respiratory care services we offer at Mercy Health.

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