Voices from the Front Lines: Kim Croucher
We recently joined hospital staff for a few days to document the reality of treating COVID-19 patients in UK HealthCare clinical settings.
This edited interview is part of our ongoing series, “UK HealthCare: Voices from the Front Lines,” highlighting stories and perspectives from our frontline staff who have been caring for the sickest COVID-19 patients since March 2020.
Kim Croucher, RRT, has been a respiratory therapist for more than 20 years, having worked the past 13 at UK HealthCare.
Tell me a little bit about what you were doing for patients on a typical day prior to COVID
We work all over the hospital, from the recovery room to pre-op to trauma ICU, ER, anywhere anybody's on a breathing machine, we manage the breathing machines. (Even) preemie babies, we do it all.
Can you tell me about what you do for COVID patients?
From the time that they have trouble breathing, we're always there. We switch them from high-flow oxygen, we're there for the intubation when they're put on the ventilator, we assist the doctors. And then, we help manage the ventilators when the patients are really sick.
Have you had conversations with COVID patients prior to them being put on ECMO?
Yes, I've had patients ask me to pray for them every time I go in the room while they're on the ventilator. And I try to make it as easy as possible, because they don't know if they're going to make it out of here. And we don't know if they're going to make it.
What has it been like the past 18 months for you and your staff?
It's a lot of hard work. Some days you just don't stop. You're proning these patients — putting them on their bellies to try to improve their lungs. And it's nonstop from room to room, because everybody's oxygen is low. We just do what we can to get them better.
Can you describe the process of putting a patient in a prone position?
So, if a patient's laying on their back and we have to turn them, it takes at least seven people to turn a patient at one time. We're at the head of the bed, controlling the airway when we do that. They're on their bellies for 18 hours, 16, 18 hours. Sometimes you’re turning about eight patients back-to-back-to back.
Are there any specific moments or memories from the past year that stick out to you?
The look on people's faces when they're going on the ventilator and they don't know if they're going to make it out of here, and I don't know if they're going to make it out of here.
What's the most important thing that you want people in the outside community to understand about what's happening here?
COVID is very real. Anybody can get it. I personally got vaccinated just because I don't want to spread it to my family members, my friends. I don't want to be that person that makes my mom sick or my husband sick. I'm not so much worried about myself, but others.