Respiratory therapists are fast becoming the elite heroes of the COVID-19 crisis, as the disease can impact the most critical function of the body: breathing.
Enter the likes of Glendale’s Jessica Stingle. Respiratory therapists use measures like intubation and ventilation to stabilize critically ill COVID-19 patients struggling for oxygen.
Stingle’s already heroic path rose to a higher level last week, when she and three other Banner Health respiratory therapists deployed to help fellow Banner Health team members in northern Colorado, a COVID-19 “hot spot.”
A meat-packing facility in Greeley, 60 miles north of Denver, closed after a coronavirus outbreak killed several workers. Greeley’s city manager called the number of cases in his city “shocking.”
The Glendale Star reached out to Stingle, who said she helped in the recovery of several previously intubated patients.
“Things are going well,” she said from Colorado.
“I have been able to successfully extubate four patients. I have learned so much and am happy to be here.”
Hospital staff around the country have caught COVID-19, with some dying from the disease.
“I am not worried about it,” Stingle said. “I always have the risk of catching something. I always wear proper PPE (personal protective equipment) and feel protected,” Stingle said.
She added deploying was an easy decision. “I had zero hesitations. I was excited for the opportunity to be able to help.”
Stingle and her colleagues will be at Banner’s Greeley hospital for a month.
She said she treated several patients with COVID-19 at her usual workplace, Banner Boswell Medical Center in Sun City, which prepared her to help her colleagues in northern Colorado.
“Every case seems to be a little different,” she said. “We care for these people and make sure they are getting the best care they possibly can from us and our nursing staff. We work one on one with the nurses and physicians.”
Stingle and her fellow respiratory therapists flew to Greeley on a private charter jet donated by Swift Aviation.
The private flight kept Banner team members isolated from the general public and allowed them to arrive at North Colorado Medical Center faster.
“I’m excited to go and help them and be there for our team because we are all one,” Stingle said.
The four respiratory therapists arrived as five Banner registered nurses returned to the Phoenix area after a two-week assignment. They were part of a team of 10 registered nurses that arrived in Greeley March 29.
One of the nurses, Jessica Flake, treated patients with COVID-19 in the progressive care unit, which is just below the intensive care unit. During the pandemic, ICU is being reserved for patients who must be intubated, which is where a ventilator takes over breathing operations for the patient.
“It has been physically demanding and tiring, as these patients are very sick,” Flake said in an April 2 Facebook post. “I’ve seen more intubations and intubated patients in two shifts then I have my whole nursing career; including nursing school.
“These poor people are fighting for their life, without their loved ones by their side.”
In these life-threatening situations, respiratory therapists like Stingle are crucial to help patients survive.
“I have knowledge of what’s going on in the lungs and how to save people,” Stingle said.
Stingle said she felt honored to be part of the mission to the COVID-19 hot spot.
“We’re always there for our patients, no matter what,” Stingle said.
“We care for these people and make sure they get the best possible care.”