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Local respiratory therapists save lives from COVID-19

More than 900 patients have tested positive at TMH
Posted at 11:27 PM, Jan 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-04 23:28:32-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — While a new year is here, the challenges from the pandemic have not changed much. This is especially true for those who have beat COVID-19 and have been working to get stronger. One of those patients says he owes a lot to frontline workers.

“I’m very grateful for those folks,” said Tallahassee resident, Gary Cottingham. “By the time I got tested, I was in the hospital.”

He was one of the first patients in Leon County to contract COVID-19. He spent six days in the hospital Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare.

“My lungs were in bad shape,” Cottingham explained. “I left the hospital and was on oxygen for six weeks”

He is doing better now, but he says he might not have survived without the front-line healthcare workers at TMH.

“My lungs were very filled. It was hard to breathe,” Cottingham added.

But breathing is a respiratory therapist’s specialty.

“Since the pandemic started, respiratory therapists have been on the front lines,” shared Suhey Tuckler, the director of respiratory care services at TMH.

A team of more than 90 workers has been tending to patients like Cottingham since the start of the pandemic.

Respiratory therapists, courtesy TMH

“We’re there for emotional support just letting them know that we’re there with them,” Tuckler explained. “We’re fighting this battle with them.”

It’s a battle that TMH said more than 900 patients have been through after testing positive for COVID-19.

Now, Tuckler is sending this message to everyone: “Wear your mask. This is definitely what we need to do. This is what everyone can do to help us.”

TMH respiratory therapist, courtesy TMH

For those who don’t follow the guidelines, Cottingham said, “I’m not just concerned; I’m angry.”

He is angry that people don’t take a virus that’s taking so many lives more seriously.

“If you can’t see that, I don’t know what to tell you,” Cottingham concluded.

Cottingham says he now lives with sleep apnea. He never had the condition before getting COVID-19.