Respiratory therapists play key role in treating coronavirus patients

Updated: Apr. 16, 2020 at 4:54 PM HST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Ray Damo has seen COVID-19 quickly take patients downhill.

“They’ll be talking on their phones like how me and you are talking," he said.

“And then the next day they could just be so short of breath, the oxygen levels in their blood are really low and they need to be put on a ventilator.”

Damo is on a team of 11 respiratory therapists at The Queen’s Medical Center who in addition to their regular duties are treating people sickened by the coronavirus.

They track oxygen levels and operate machines that help patients breathe.

“The machines that the respiratory therapist will use for these COVID patients are ventilators,” Damo said. He said it can get very tense when a coronavirus patient develops pneumonia.

"It's damaging to their lungs, and it's just so widespread that they're body isn't getting enough oxygen because their lungs are just so full of fluid," he said.

Damo has been at Queen’s for 20 years but he has never dealt with a respiratory illness as severe as COVID-19.

“We learn from the previous COVID-positive patient that are on ventilators as far as how to get more oxygen into their bloodstream,” he said.

He and his wife have two young children. Even though he wears protective gear, he worries that he might eventually be infected and take the virus home.

"It's a bit scary," he said. "You never know who could be a carrier."

Damo is thankful Queen’s has adequate staffing to cover shifts, but he feels for his counterparts in hard-hit areas like New York.

“It’s tough to see because I’m sure that their staffing levels are already through the roof,” he said.

He appreciates the support he gets at Queen's and the gratitude shown by the community.

“Much mahalo because it lets us know that we’re loved and we’re appreciated for what we do,” he said.

Copyright 2020 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.