This is an appreciation post for some very special medical speech-language pathologists. In the first picture (in grey) from left to right, meet Ana, Talia, Gabriela, Carly, Jessell and Lina! Also pictured (in red) is a team of ENTs!
When their hospital became overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients, these SLPs saw a great number of patients with significant breathing difficulties. Many required ventilators and some even needed tracheostomies (breathing tubes inserted into the trachea via a hole in the throat). These SLPs and ENTs developed a comprehensive “Trach Team” to better manage the influx of patients with tracheostomies. While a person is using a ventilator, they can’t eat or talk, so the team works together to help get patients off of ventilators as quickly as possible.
When patients come off of ventilators, SLPs evaluate their ability to eat/drink safely. SLPs can also place a speaking valve on the tracheostomy to allow them to speak - for the very first time in months for some patients! For these SLPs, it was incredibly rewarding to witness patients hearing their own voice, calling family members, and to facilitate their first bite of food or drink of water after long periods of not being able to do so.
Pictured on the right, meet Audrey from Texas! Audrey described the unique challenges she continues to face with COVID-19 patients. Because there was, and still is, a lot that is unknown about this virus and how it affects patients differently, meeting their evolving and unique needs has caused Audrey to have to be flexible and rely more on clinical judgement. Establishing best practices for screening and assessment of patients with COVID-19 as a team, in the spirit of minimizing use of PPE and reducing risk of transmission, is a goal that is addressed frequently. This crisis has presented lots of opportunities to find creative ways to serve patients with limited resources.
Some of the SLPs featured today contracted COVID-19 themselves while working. Thankfully, they recovered and returned to work to continue to help others during the ongoing pandemic. Thank you to this amazing group of SLPs for all that you do to help care for patients!!