Breathing easier: Respiratory therapist speaks from experience

Respiratory therapist Amy Bradt talks with Muyan Pen, 14, who breathes with a ventilator because of complications from a brain tumor. (photo by Richard Whelsky)

Respiratory therapist Amy Bradt talks with Muyan Pen, 14, who breathes with a ventilator because of complications from a brain tumor. (photos by Richard Whelsky)

BY JIM HOWE

When Amy Bradt reassures an anxious child not to be afraid of a breathing tube she is giving them, she speaks from experience.

“I understand. I know what you’re going through,” she tells her patients. “I’ve been through this myself.”

Bradt, a respiratory therapist who works mainly in the pediatric intensive care unit at the Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital, spent a lot of time in hospitals as a child. She was diagnosed at age 6 with a cancer called Ewing sarcoma. The disease led to multiple surgeries, and several times she was intubated — with a tube inserted into the windpipe, so a ventilator can help with breathing. She also had three tracheotomies, where a hole is cut directly into the windpipe to help with breathing.

Dealing with an intubation or a tracheotomy can frighten children, and it can be uncomfortable.

Bradt, shown with Muyan, can tell her young patients, "I've been through this myself."

Bradt, shown with Muyan, can tell her young patients, “I’ve been through this myself.”

“We get a lot of kids who are scared to be intubated, so I can tell them it’ll be OK. I understand how they’re feeling when we do certain things,” Bradt says. “My experience helps a lot with the parents, too, to reassure them these are the best decisions, that their child will be uncomfortable but not in too much pain.”

She likes that she can watch her interventions make breathing easier for her patients most of the time. “It’s nice to have that instant effect in kids. My favorite part is when kids who are scared realize this is helping. They smile.”

Bradt was drawn to science, partly because she was in and out of hospitals so often in childhood.

After she got her bachelor’s degree in respiratory therapy, she went into the pediatric side of the specialty, so “I could help kids the way people helped me,” she explains.

“I feel like I can connect with them, and through personal experience let them know they’ll be OK.”

Interested in respiratory therapy?

Upstate Medical University offers a bachelor of science degree in respiratory therapy and was one of the first schools to offer a baccalaureate degree in the profession. Faculty have national, state and local recognitions and more than 100 years of combined experience. Students enter as college juniors. The 21-month program includes more than 1,000 hours of clinical experience in a variety of settings. Click here to learn more.

Upstate Health magazine summer 2019 issue coverThis article appears in the summer 2019 issue of Upstate Health magazine.

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