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Alumni Spotlight: Respiratory Therapy Graduate, Stefeny Reuter

Follow your passion for a career in healthcare and make a difference.



Stefeny Reuter, a respiratory therapy graduate from Pima Medical Institute’s Houston, TX campus, signed up for an eight-week contract with a travel company to work in a New York hospital ravaged with COVID-19. She left a two and a 12-year-old behind in Houston, where she is living.

Here’s a look at her days leading up to, and during her time in New York, in her own words.

“I chose healthcare because of my desire to help. It was scary knowing that I would be leaving my little ones to go to essentially a war zone. I talked to my oldest and told her that we can’t expect things to change in the world if we aren’t ready to make a difference. I want my girls to be better human beings than I am and I can only do that if I show them strength and courage. While packing with my mom, we had such a great talk. She’s scared so we talked and I told her that if I can’t save patients then I can hold their hand as they go home. I think it brought her some peace. Tomorrow, I head to New York.

Today was day one of work. I was shocked by what these amazing people are going through up here and I am in disbelief that these healthcare workers have been doing this for more than two months. I was greeted by all of the staff. They are the sweetest, kindest, most appreciative people just because I showed up. I am humbled by this experience and can only hope that I don’t let them down.

I am surrounded by COVID patients. I am told today that 80-90 percent of patients do not make it off the ventilators. We are changing settings and doing everything we can to give them as much time as possible to let their bodies fight the virus but their organs are failing and many succumbed to the virus. I cried on my way home talking to my mom and questioning whether I could actually do this. My mom reminded me why I was there and gave me the words I needed to hear to go back tomorrow.

We are covered head to toe with so many things – surgical mask on top of N95 with face shield, hair cap, gown, plastic bags wrapped around our feet and booties. Every time we go into a room, we have to dress. It takes more time to gown up than we spend in the room. We have no idea what we are dealing with. I have watched people die, drowning in their secretions, people cry as they watch their family member die from a phone screen and people laugh because it’s the only way to get through this reality in one piece. Nothing could have prepared me for what I have been experiencing. I’ve decided that through the pain and sorrow I will find the good and light and I want to share that with everyone.

During my education at Pima Medical Institute, we were trained on all different types of ventilators, some that I haven’t seen since graduation until coming here to New York. Although nothing could have prepared me for this, I am so thankful for the training and preparation I received while at Pima Medical.

Our hospital plays the Rocky theme song after every discharge of a COVID patient. It plays a lullaby every time a baby is born. In those moments, I find joy and strength. I pray for the ones I watch take their last breath and I smile for the ones who get to join their families again. Yesterday I was blessed by being able to see an ultrasound of a pregnant intubated patient and hear the baby’s heartbeat as it moves around its momma’s belly. There is always a positive in the bad. As I intubated yet another COVID patient today while he was crashing in the ER, I heard the Rocky theme song overhead for the 12th time today. As my patient fights for his life, 12 patients get to go home to their families.

Today was a terrible day! I intubated a COVID patient that I had just spoken to hours before. During transport to our COVID ICU we lost his gem line. As the nurse was holding pressure, we started rushing to get him stable. I looked at my partner and said, “He’s going to code any minute”. Not even a minute later I was bagging as they were doing compressions and giving meds. While all of this was going on, I had doctors and nurses from two other patients calling for my help. My partner started bagging so I could go over to another patient who was struggling to breathe. I made changes to the ventilator, telling doctors to do something, while another patient was desaturating with a nurse who had no idea how to make changes to these vents. I ran over and made changes and then ran back to my coding patient and started bagging again. I was sweating in my PPE and exhausted both mentally and physically. We had already lost two of my 12 patients today. I kept bagging for about 30 minutes knowing this is not going to turn out well and my tears started coming. I’m trying to hold it together and the doctor asks if anyone has any other ideas. Then she called time of death and I broke. My heart couldn’t take anymore. I am in what feels like a war zone and I don’t know how to breathe anymore.

As much as you try to separate yourself, it’s impossible to not hurt for the families of these patients we have lost. One patient asked me to call their family before they were intubated and no one answered. It broke my heart that their final goodbyes went unheard. I went back to my temporary home truly missing my family. The next two 2 days I cried and slept.


inside_7Today is a new day and I’m clearing my head and starting fresh! I came back today with a hope of a better day than last and I will continue to do so as long as I’m here. Hug your loved ones tight. Be safe as you return to normalcy and remember that today is a great day to tell someone you care.
I Face Timed with my kids when I got home and I got to see my family snuggling and playing. I miss them like crazy but they look so happy and healthy and I realize how blessed I am! Now I get a weekend of sleep and relaxation. Happy Mother’s Day to me!!!”

Stefeny’s story is extraordinary and shows her commitment to her healthcare career and her patients.

Are you considering a career in healthcare? Go to pmi.edu for more information.

June 2, 2020
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