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3 years into the pandemic, a Kansas respiratory therapist says 'I haven't processed all of it'

Respiratory therapists who manage ventilators and assist with intubations have been leaving their jobs during the surge in COVID 19.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Respiratory therapists who manage ventilators and assist with intubations have been leaving their jobs during the surge in COVID 19.

Kansas and Missouri announced their first confirmed positive COVID-19 cases on Mar. 7, 2020. A registered respiratory therapist shares her experience caring for patients — some of whom refused proper treatment — in a Kansas hospital.

Although earlier cases are presumed, Kansas and Missouri announced their first confirmed COVID-19 cases on Mar. 7, 2020. At the time, little was known about the disease, keeping medical professionals on their toes and constantly adapting to the latest scientific information.

"It was hard at the time," says Julie Mayne, a registered respiratory therapist who worked in a Kansas City-metro hospital. "[T]hey learned more and more as it kind of went on."

As COVID cases surged along the coastal U.S., Mayne says she was relieved to be in the Midwest, where things weren't as busy.

But as more people contracted the virus, Mayne describes a "bottleneck" effect of new patients and emergency room patients waiting for a bed.

"[I]t just becomes overwhelming," she says.

During the earlier stages of the pandemic, medical workers were viewed by some as heroes, rewarded with cards of appreciation and meals. But Mayne says eventually the tone shifted. Patients began to refuse prescribed care, instead recommending alternative treatments found through Google.

The workload and patience for the pandemic began to wear thin.

"I absolutely love my job," Mayne says, but she recalls a point of feeling like she hit a wall — not wanting to work anymore.

"I'll never forget one day I was driving to work and I was so tired, and I was just, I had got to the point where I started thinking, 'Why am I doing this?' Like, I would much rather go work at Walmart, go anywhere, do anything else, then go to work today."

For hospital workers like Mayne, the number of patient deaths grew from occasional to daily to multiple times a day. Hospital staff frequently held iPad devices for families who were restricted by many hospital's COVID-19 safety measures from being bedside with the dying patient.

Some have been critical of the no-visitor policies in hospitals and other medical care facilities. Mayne says the hospital staff knew "it wasn't best for the patient," but had to protect others from the further spread of the virus.

Mayne says the workload and tragedy caused many in the medical fields to seek other employment.

"They were tired of making those phone calls . . . letting them know that we've done everything and there's nothing more that we can do and we're sorry," says Mayne. "It was hard. And honestly, I probably haven't processed all of it."

Mayne joined Up To Date to reflect on her experience as a respiratory therapist throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Julie Mayne, registered respiratory therapist
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When I host Up To Date each morning at 9, my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. Reach me at steve@kcur.org or on Twitter @stevekraske.
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