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Houston County respiratory therapist travels to COVID-19 epicenters

Rachel Rodriguez just got to Miami after spending time helping hospitals in New York and Texas.

WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — Rachel Rodriguez became a respiratory therapist after graduating from Middle Georgia State University in 2018.

Last October, she decided to work as a traveling therapist.

"If you have a special skill set and people really need it, it's just kind of a call," she said.

At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, she spent six weeks helping at a hospital in Brooklyn, New York. It's her job to work with nurses and doctors to come up with treatment plans, put patients on ventilators and monitor their progress.

After just a brief time back at home, Rodriguez headed to a hospital in southern Texas.

"I would say in New York, the patients were a lot more critical, a lot sicker, but in Texas, the healthcare workers were a lot more burnt out, because they just don't have the surge that New York got in that first wave of everybody wanting to help," Rodriguez said. "It was pretty difficult in Texas. I worked there for two weeks and I spent six weeks in New York and two weeks in Texas was all I had in me."

She recalls watching the virus leave even young, otherwise healthy, patients gasping for air.

"There is only so much support that the therapist and the nurse can provide before the patient has to be placed on something more invasive, and it's hard to watch them try to make that turnaround and just struggle for air and gasp to tell you what they need," she said.

That's why she wants to stress the importance of following health guidelines like wearing a mask and social distancing.

"It really scares me how much worse it could get if people don't stay home, cook at home, talk to their friends on a Zoom meeting or have their cocktail hour on a Zoom meeting. I promise it's much more fun than gasping for air on all these machines," she said.

Rodriguez is now in Miami where she will work for the next two to four weeks.

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