‘Yes, I’m scared’: Local respiratory therapist works the front lines

By KAREN PARKER

County Line Publisher Emeritus

Kim DeWitt of Ontario is one of those people we have heard much about on the news lately. She is “on the front lines” as a respiratory therapist with the Mayo Clinic Health System.

“When I come home, I throw all my clothes in the washer, take a shower and wash my hair.”

She also no longer sees her grandchildren.

Healthcare workers will be consistently exposed to the COVID-19 virus, a respiratory infection that has already killed 20 doctors in Italy and multiple healthcare providers throughout the world.

DeWitt divides her time between Sparta and La Crosse. Sparta has no ICU beds, while La Crosse has 17. According to DeWitt, one therapist can tend to about five ventilators at once. All need to be watched to ensure they are delivering the right levels of oxygen.

DeWitt said Mayo is currently short six therapists and is scrambling to add to the staff. She wasn’t certain how well-stocked Mayo was for supplies, but said she calculated that each day, it takes 118 masks to provide lab and other services to ICU patients.

Although COVID-19 patients are not flooding the system yet, DeWitt said this has been a very busy year with flu, respiratory infections and pneumonia.

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