Meet the Fil-Am veteran saving lives as a respiratory therapist on the COVID-19 frontlines

Michael de Peralta knows the importance of fighting for survival for life.

For the past 7 years, the U.S. Air Force veteran has become a respiratory therapist.

But a health scare a few years ago had put him on a ventilator, eventually inspiring him to become more involved as a teacher, and to serve in professional boards both in the U.S. and the Philippines.

“Once I became a patient myself and being on the mechanical ventilator, that changed a lot of things on how I practice my profession. I always tell my students, I always tell my colleagues. I always tell my friends, if you’re going to do what you need to do with your patients, always think about that. That’s your family, that’s your best friend. that’s someone that’s important to you.”

Now the Northern California respiratory therapist is in the global battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. He’s among the frontliners who risk exposing themselves to save others.

His job is to put the most severe patients on breathing machines, called ventilators.

“Respiratory therapists are critical for the COVID-19 patients, once you are unable to breathe and you are able to sustain life, then somebody has to help you breathe, or somebody has to take over breathing for a patient. The staff are working harder, resources are limited right now and the morale at the first second week of the outbreak, people are out there and really want to know get this COVID-19, and we’ll fight together, but people want to know, they’re scared for themselves too.”

A shortage of ventilators has become one of the major issues in the global pandemic.

While De Peralta said so far his region has not been in short supply, he’s more concerned about the manpower.

U.S. labor statistics, show as of 2018, there are 134,000 respiratory therapists in the country. Some areas have called for retired respiratory therapists to return to the workforce.

“It’s really important if we ramp up the production and distribution of mechanical ventilators, we should also think about who’s gonna run these ventilators. As respiratory therapists, we truly know the art and science.”

De Peralta, who does advocacy work for his profession in the U.S. and Philippines, knows the danger that comes with his work.

They’re being closely monitored throughout the job for exposure to coronavirus.

“We’re afraid too we might contract the disease — but as long as we wear the right PPE, we take care of our patients, we’re protected. It’s scary, this what we do, we are scared, but we need to do what we gotta do.”

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