Respiratory Therapist Contributes Innovative Breathing Equipment to Stony Brook ELIH

Pictured Above: Respiratory Therapist Shari Hymes

Respiratory Therapist Shari Hymes, who works for both Stony Brook ELIH and Stony Brook Southampton Hospitals, has had a first-hand look at the difficulties facing patients battling Covid-19, and she has decided to go the extra mile in helping Stony Brook ELIH battle this disease.

Ms. Hymes has stepped up to purchase a $10,000 High Velocity Nasal Insufflation (Hi-VNI®) system from a company called Vapotherm®, which is a mask-free non-invasive ventilation system for patients who can breathe on their own, for Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital in greenport.

Ms. Hymes has been a respiratory therapist for more than 35 years, but she has never seen anything like the COVID-19 pandemic in all of her years in the field.

“I never thought I’d experience anything like this in my lifetime,” she says. “We’ve had really bad flu seasons, but nothing like this.”

“Everyone’s hearing about ventilators, and we still do need more ventilators,” says Ms. Hymes. But with this Vapotherm® system, “we’ll have an extra option. We don’t have to go right to intubation.”

“Traditionally, when patients with respiratory illness need assistance to breathe, there are multiple respiratory care options to exhaust before physicians resort to intubation and use of a ventilator, according to Stony Brook ELIH. “These care options include treatment using nebulizers, high flow nasal cannulas, and bi-level positive airway pressure (BiPAP) machines.”

But these forms of care also come with a high risk of airborne transmissions to healthcare workers. 

Vapotherm® high velocity therapy, when properly fitted and applied, is associated with a low risk of airborne transmissions,” according to the Vapotherm® company.

Ms. Hymes has already seen this technology in action at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, where they’re treating Covid-19 patients with this system.

“It’s a lot more comfortable for the patient, as it allows them to sit up in bed and eat, which they couldn’t do while intubated,” she says. “It doesn’t take up a lot of room, and it’s safer for our healthcare workers.”

“All of our staff—and I mean all of us—are working extraordinarily hard to keep themselves, their patients, and this community safe during this unprecedented time,” says Paul J. Connor III, Chief Administrative Officer of Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital. “Shari is going above and beyond the call of duty here; she’s one of the many modern-day heroes that make me so proud to be part of this incredible staff.”

The ELIH Foundation has started a COVID-19 Action Fund to fund critical staff, supplies, and bed overflow capacity in the event of a patient surge.

“With each new initiative and call to action, the community has answered,” according to the Foundation. “SBELIH has already received many generous donations of supplies, funds, and meals for staff.”

“I’ve never seen such a sense of community as I do throughout the North Fork,” says Ms. Hymes. “There’s so much we can do; we can all do this.”

For more information about the Vapotherm® High Velocity Nasal Insufflation (Hi-VNI®) system, visit their website.

For more information about how you can support Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital and the ELIH Foundation, please call the Foundation Office at 631.477.5164 or email elih_donations@stonybrookmedicine.edu.

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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