Imagine walking into work and the first thing you have to do is develop an action plan to treat a patient who has been shot, another patient who has pneumonia from COVID-19, and another patient who just had a heart attack. That is every day for Jeff Miller, a registered respiratory therapist at the Vanderbilt Bedford Hospital. He is responsible for covering the emergency room, medical surgical units, and the critical care unit.
To develop a plan for the patient, Jeff begins with an examination of the patients with breathing and cardiopulmonary disorders. Then, he consults with the physician to develop the action plan for how to begin treatment. For COVID- positive patient, that treatment could mean life support and a ventilator.
Being in the room when making the decision to put a patient on life support or not has made an impact on Jeff’s life. With disorders like COPD, congestive heart failure, and heart attacks, medical professionals have had years and years of education on how to get the patient to full health. Jeff could know what to expect with those existing disorders. then, a new, mysterious virus was infecting people quickly. It was contagious and unforgiving.
Over time, the war with the virus brought on new enlightenment on how to treat patients. Medical professionals were starting to get a grip and understand what their next steps should be. But even with time and experience, COVID was still unpredictable. “The unpredictability of the virus made a one-size-fits-all-treatment for COVID patients impossible,” Jeff said. “Each covid patient presented their own unique obstacles. We, as healthcare providers, had to do a lot of thinking outside the box on how to battle this virus.”
Seeing the damage the virus could do firsthand made Jeff immediately take precautions. “I became a fanatic when it came to protecting myself, my patients, my coworkers, and loved ones at home. Everything I did on a normal basis, prior to COVID-19, had now become something that I had to think about methodically. Everything I touched or came into contact with had to be evaluated in an orderly manner so that I did not spread the virus to other people.
Washing my hands and wearing a mask became an obsession both inside and outside the hospital because I saw firsthand how deadly this virus could be,” he said.
Overtime, the COVID cases began to fall because of people life Jeff. “If I could pass on anything that I have learned from this pandemic, it’s this. Masks work, social distancing works, and vaccinations work,” he began. “It’s not just about you. It’s about all the other mothers, fathers, and grandparents that are out there doing their best to live the rest of their lives during this awful time. It’s about newborns, young children, and teenagers who have yet to live their lives. We must protect ourselves, our loved ones, and be kind and respectful to one another.”
On the other side of the coin, Jeff was able to focus on what matters because of the pandemic. “I have learned to live life as if it were going to be gone tomorrow. This virus has taken so many lives way before their time. When you see firsthand the aggressiveness of the virus and how quickly it can take someone’s life, it gives you an opportunity to step back and evaluate your priorities. It has helped me understand how grateful I am to have my family and friends.” -GN