Healthcare Heroes: Jessica Welsh, Respiratory Therapist

Healthcare Heroes

The nursing field gets much-deserved attention for their dedication and hard work during this pandemic but I’d also like to mention the heroes of Registered Respiratory Therapists and their efforts to ensure those affected by the Covid pandemic are able to regain their breathing function during and after being affected.

We see respiratory therapists in our hospitals, you know … the ones that come into your room during the middle of the night and wake you to administer a dose of albuterol treatment. But Respiratory Therapists are on the front lines of the war on Covid. They are skilled at recognizing dangerous fluctuations of life-threatening ailments of the lungs that also affect the cleansed blood leading back to the heart and taking appropriate action to alleviate the situation.

I’m biased towards this career field as my daughter, Jessica Welsh, is a Registered Respiratory Therapist with the St Thomas Rutherford County hospital. You see, Jessica had extreme asthma as a child and spent many days with her nebulizer in close proximity at home as well as daycare.As she began elementary school, her asthma lessened in severity and she was able to only use the breathing treatments in emergency situations. Like most parents, we talked with Jessica about what she wanted to be when she grew up. She never hesitated and always replied, “I want to be a Respiratory Therapist because I understand the feeling of struggling to breathe.”

As the years go by and her high school days are coming to an end, Jessica applied for a chance to follow her dream by enrolling in Columbia State Community College in the respiratory program. The schooling is indeed tough and not everyone that applies is able to finish the 2- year course. After a year of getting her basic subjects behind her, Jessica was accepted into the respiratory program and though there were times that she worried if she was going to make it to graduation, she dug deeper inside of herself and gathered the internal and mental strength to carry on. In the Spring of 2014, her efforts were rewarded as she walked the line to receive her diploma at CSCC as a Respiratory Therapist. After passing her boards to be a registered RT, she began working at a rehabilitation facility in Nashville … driving from her home in Murfreesboro to the far side of Nashville to give aid and comfort to those that needed assistance breathing and a friendly smile and compassion for her patients.

While employed at the Nashville location, she also spent her off days driving to McMinnville and plying her career there to assist more people that needed her skills. When the pandemic hit, as parents we worried for our daughter as we knew this was uncharted territory and her exposure to this deadly virus would be something she would have to deal with every single day. In November of 2020, Jessica did contract the Covid virus and though her symptoms were thankfully mild, she endured isolation for 14 days before she was able to return to work. As I stated earlier, I may be biased but Jessica and the other Respiratory Therapists that arm themselves in masks, gowns, and eye protection daily to combat this deadly virus are my heroes, and my wife and I are extremely proud and honored to be Jessica’s parents!

Submitted by Benjamin Welsh

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