Hawks Healthcare Heroes in fight against COVID-19

MVCC has been educating students in the healthcare field for decades, and is proud to hear about the life-saving work our graduates do on a daily basis, especially in times like these. Over the past few months, we have been hearing and sharing stories of MVCC alumni around the country who have been working on the frontlines in the fight against COVID-19. Some told us about their experiences in their own words, while others were brought to our attention by their appreciative co-workers and family members.

Carli Amodio ’18

Image of alumna Carli Amodio, respiratory therapistRegistered Respiratory Therapist and MVCC full-time Instructor Carli Amodio ’18 shared her experience fighting COVID-19 at Bassett Healthcare’s Fox Hospital in Oneonta:

“Being a respiratory therapist during these trying times has been both eye-opening and scary. We work diligently around the clock not only to save the lives of others, but also to protect ourselves and our families. One of the most difficult aspects of this fight, in my opinion, is witnessing how horrifyingly fast this disease can take over our patients, and how scared and isolated they feel not being able to have their families with them.

“What we do as respiratory therapists isn’t as prominently recognized as other fields within healthcare, but RTs are an integral part of the frontline team. Along with the rapidly changing medications that COVID patients are receiving, they also often require help with breathing. While some patients need supplemental oxygen and different breathing techniques, others require artificial airways and mechanical ventilation — that’s our specialty. As cardio-pulmonary experts, this aspect of our field is integral. It involves configuring patient-specific settings and utilizing these settings to breathe for our patients when they are unable to effectively do so themselves. We also maintain the ventilators, draw blood to assess lung function, and make setting changes as necessary. This is just a fraction of what we do on a daily basis.

“With everything changing so frequently, our protocols and policies are also changing rapidly. This requires us to work seamlessly in keeping up with the most current data and treatment recommendations to ensure our patients are receiving the best care during these scary times. As an alum, I can confidently say that MVCC’s Respiratory Care program has prepared me tremendously to endure these unexpected circumstances; and for that I am a forever grateful and proud registered respiratory therapist.”

Victoria Scialdo ’19

Image of alumna Victoria Scialdo, respiratory therapistRegistered Respiratory Therapist Victoria Scialdo ’19 shared her experiences at St. Joseph’s Health in Syracuse:

“The hardest part of working with patients with COVID-19 has been the unknowns of the disease process. We see some patients who decline rapidly, while some may only need supplemental oxygen or other breathing strategies. If their oxygen needs tend to increase, they may require mechanical ventilation. We are highly skilled in controlling every aspect of the ventilator. We draw blood that tells us how the patient’s lungs are functioning and make decisions from there to move them in the right direction. Our goal is to get them off of life support as soon as possible for the best chance at a normal life.

“We are sometimes referred to as the ‘silent angels’ of the hospital, because our patients are often too sick to know the role we played in their recovery, but there is nothing silent about being a respiratory therapist. We tend to work long shifts and often take our work home with us, wondering if there was more we could do, but we always make every breath count! MVCC’s Respiratory Care program has given me so much knowledge in the field and has led me to the therapist I am today, and for that I am forever grateful.”

Christopher Kuehnle ’13

Image of alumnus Christopher Kuehnle, respiratory therapistBoth Christopher Kuehnle ’13 and his wife, Nicole, are graduates of MVCC’s Respiratory Care program — Chris graduated in 2013, and Nicole in 2009. We heard about Chris, a respiratory therapist at St. Mary’s Healthcare in Amsterdam, N.Y., through a Facebook post by one of his colleagues. She wrote:

“This is Chris. He’s one of our #covidICU respiratory therapists at SMH. He risks his (and his family’s) well-being on a daily basis by choosing his calling. His profession exposes him to aerosolized particles when working with critically ill COVID patients to ensure that they are receiving their breathing treatments so they have a fighting chance. He brings his humility, sense of purpose, drive, compassion, and expertise to each COVID patient encounter, all the while bringing joy and uplifting the nurses with good humor. The victories we’ve had in survival for our intubated COVID patients would not be possible without the support, dedication, and passion of RTs like Chris. He is one of my #everydayheroesofSMH who fills my heart with gratitude, pride, and hope.”

Otto Allanson ’18

Image of alumnus Otto Allanson, respiratory therapistRegistered Respiratory Therapist Otto Allanson ’18, shared his experience at Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans, La.: “I am in my first year as a respiratory therapist, and I work in a hospital in New Orleans, where there is an abundance of cases of COVID-19. While the effects of the virus can be deadly in some cases, in many others I have seen patients treated and recover enough to a point of health that enables them to be released. The successes we have with these patients are a direct result of the life-saving skills and experience I acquired as a student in the MVCC Respiratory Care program. Respiratory therapists make a difference.”

Jackson Nova ’16

Registered Respiratory Therapist Jackson Nova ’16 shared his experience at Orlando Regional Medical Center, Orlando, Fla.: “Here at Orlando Regional Medical Center, we have dedicated COVID respiratory therapists and units. We’ve been fortunate enough to have enough masks for everyone in our department. We have adjusted several of our protocols in order to protect our patients and co-workers.”

Jennifer Munn, current student

Image of student Jennifer Munn with EMT and ambulanceWhen the coronavirus first hit New York, MVCC Nursing student Jennifer Munn, an AEMT-Paramedic for the Central Oneida County Volunteer Ambulance Corps, volunteered to go to a COVID-19 testing site on Long Island to help fight the pandemic in one of the hardest-hit areas. “Jennifer is living the core values we all share at MVCC by modeling the way to put others before ourselves and embracing the community by fighting to protect us all,” said School of Health Sciences Dean Melissa Copperwheat.