children

Kid asthmatics love their respiratory therapists

John Bottrell Health Pro November 25, 2008
  • See the accompanying comic!

     

    Kids hate being alone and when I was a ten-year-old boy in the hospital in 1980, I was no different. Since my dad worked and my mom had to manage her time between me and my siblings, I was left all alone in a dark hospital room hooked up to an IV -- again -- because of asthma.


    This was getting old. I was up half the night with chest tightness and wheezing when I woke dad up. He brought me to the ER without saying a word. But since it was the third night in a row this happened, my doctor decided he best admit me.


    Other than the drone of the heater, the tick-tock of the clock, and the occasional voice from the lighted hallway, all was quiet as I lie in my hospital bed thinking, "here we go again."


    It seemed I was in that dark, TV-less room for hours before my RT finally came into my room to give me a breathing treatment.


    This stout man with messy dark hair handed me my treatment, but then sat in a chair and wouldn't even talk to me. He was nice but aloof. It was dark and I kept looking over at him, and he said nothing. He had his nose in my chart.


    Finally, he was done with his job and he grabbed the loose nasal cannula that I tucked under my pillow and put it back on my face. As soon as he was out the door I took it back off and let it fall to the floor.


    Just when I figured I wouldn't ever fall asleep, it was morning, which was boring except when the nurses and RT came to visit.


    Finally at noon, mom came with a brown paper bag. I opened the bag and took out a drawing pad. She said, "I can't stay long because I only have a babysitter for an hour. But I can come back after dinner when your dad gets home from work. In the meantime you can draw."


    After lunch I was alone -- again. I was too bored to draw.


    An elderly nurse came in and inserted something into my IV and was gone in a heartbeat without even a "Hi, Rick." I kept looking out the window as though I was going to see my mom's car or something.


    That's when Sahara, one of my favorite RTs, came in. She was a slender, meticulous, and very young brunette. As my treatment was going, she sat next to me on my bed and watched a show about aborigines. I didn't even notice it was on until she came in, and I giggled because the people were naked.


    "Don't make fun of those people," she said. I tried to concentrate on not giggling, but I couldn't help myself.


    After the treatment she left and came back with a deck of playing cards. We played War for hours.


    My mom came back to visit with my brothers, but they didn't stay long. Again, I was sad when they left. I was really bored that night. I longed for anyone to talk to. Finally a friendly RN came in and told me I could sit at the nurses' station and draw.


    I followed her with my pad and she cleared a spot at the station for me to work. "Draw a picture for us," she said. I drew a picture of the nurses in their funny white hats at work.


    The next day, while mom was visiting, a middle-aged male RT came into my room and told me about the doctor's order for me to go into an oxygen tent. He said it was because I refused to wear my oxygen cannula. Even as a kid you notice certain things, -- he seemed to be in no hurry to get me in this thing.


  • I was in no hurry.
    "But it will be like camping," mom said.


    Hours later the RT set it up over my head. I didn't mind it for about 20 minutes while my mom read from a Reader's Digest she found in the waiting room. But when I laid back and tried to watch TV I could barely see it through the plastic. I wanted out.


    At dinner time I got my wish. After dinner I refused to go back in.


    That night a dark haired RT I had never met before came into the room. She was very affable, and I grew to like her right away. I can't remember what we talked about, but we talked a lot. She was a good RT like Sahara, who played cards with me. No, she was a great RT because she told me it was okay that I stay out of that tent.


    "You're going to come in during the night to give me my treatments, right?" I asked, hating that she had to leave.


    "I sure will," she said with a smile.


    I was up all night. I knew I had treatments every four hours and I couldn't wait for that new RT to come back into my room so we could talk some more. But I never saw her again -- or so I thought.


    A week ago -- and 28 years later -- I was talking to my co-worker Jane Sage. She said, "You know what? Recently I was thinking of when I was called in to work nights because we had a little 10-year-old boy in an oxygen tent. And you know, it never even occurred to me--"


    "IT WAS YOU! You were THAT RT!" I said.


    Her smile grew. "Yes. I think it was me. It never even dawned on me until just now."


    I now work with two of my favorite childhood RTs.


    Now, as an RT myself, I like to pay attention to my patients, as opposed to charting in the room. I like to think I'd be this way even if I wasn't the recipient of good care when I was a kid asthmatic.