St Francis' respiratory care unit

Thursday, June 13th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

As temperatures rise, so do ozone levels in the atmosphere, and that affects all of us, but people with respiratory problems are most at risk.

One Tulsa hospital will be even more ready to help patients breathe easy. News on Six medical reporter Tami Marler explains.

“Can’t talk very long without taking a drink of water." Jackie Bray is like too many Oklahomans. She struggles every day with emphysema. Early this week, she went to the doctor with a low-grade fever. "He said do you want to go to the hospital and I said no, and I thought about it and I said maybe I better."

As if emphysema wasn't enough, she also has pneumonia; it's like running a mile and breathing through a straw. "It's just hard to get enough air in." The respiratory care unit at St. Francis Hospital is dedicated to patients like Bray, who have serious breathing problems, and need constant care. The staff of nurses, technicians and respiratory therapists is stationed right outside of six patient rooms, for more focused care.

"It also allows us to target patients that are really too sick to be out on the floor, but not quite sick enough to be in the intensive care unit." Doctor Mark Boomer says it's an innovative, more efficient way to treat respiratory patients. "What that does for patients is if they're in significant respiratory distress, they can utilize machines that they put on their face without having to put a tube down into their throat and it's much more comfortable for the patients and it's much easier for them to turn around their disease without having to try to get them off of those machines."

"Does that feel a little better?" Without the Bipap machine, Monty would have tubes running through his nose and throat. The St. Francis respiratory care unit has been full since day one.

As summer approaches, demand is only expected to grow. Chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases like emphysema are leading killers in Oklahoma.