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Polio Survivor Sees Value in RTs

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May 3, 2013

Carol Thompson

Carol Thompson has had her share of ups and downs since surviving polio as a child, including meningitis, traumatic brain injury, vision loss, and five bouts with cancer. But she’s always met them head on, with a determination to find the best care and treatment for her condition.

She’s also reached out to other people in her community who are struggling with serious health issues, and last month she was honored for that work with the Hub City Access Christie Gutiérrez Award. Presented at the non-profit organization’s annual awards gala in Lubbock, TX, the award recognizes Carol’s efforts to help improve community access for individuals with disabilities living in the Lubbock area.

This patient advocate is a big supporter of the respiratory care profession as well, crediting therapists with helping her through many of the most frightening breathing problems she’s experienced as a result of her post-polio syndrome.

A phone call away

“In my experience my RTs have always been the most professional, highly educated, and experienced members of any medical team I’ve known,” says Carol. “Before I had a Whipple in January 2011 in Austin, I was seriously anemic -- never had been before in my life -- but not one doctor found anything wrong with me. I would go into a respiratory crisis all the time.”

She says she always carried a cell phone and a Ambu Bag with her, and didn’t hesitate to call her RTs whenever she got into trouble. “I cannot count how many times Vance Collamore or Alicia Pollard helped me through frightening crises when no other medical professional would, or could.”

Incredible RT staff

Her connection to the respiratory therapy profession recently got even stronger when one of her daughters decided to enter an RT program in Houston, a move Carol says surely stemmed in part from her long-time respiratory issues. “No doubt Monica remembers what the kids often called ‘your breathing,’ which they could hear or even feel when they were small and slept with me,” she says.

But she believes it was her daughter’s experience with RTs during a serious illness experienced by Carol’s god daughter, along with her own hospitalization at Seton Medical Center in Austin, that sealed the deal.

“Monica saw the incredible RT staff at my side almost 24/7, as well as in the operating room–a Seton standard that Sharon Armstead well carried out,” she says. Her daughter communicated with these therapists on a regular basis while her mom was undergoing treatment, learning more about the profession and what it had to offer in the process.

“Monica is a marvel, and in spite of a career change after 16 years and the demands of her RC program … I’ve never seen her as happy and excited,” says her proud mom.