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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Donation of Personal Protective Equipment Helps Save Lives During Pandemic

May 8, 2020

San Joaquin Valley College’s Respiratory Therapy program faculty and students on the Rancho Cordova campus know the importance of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to hospital medical staff during this COVID-19 threat. The virus is highly contagious and without the appropriate physical barriers of masks, gloves and gowns, many of those on the front lines of providing care are at even greater risk.

A shortage of that protective gear, along with a scarcity of ventilators, those mechanical breathing machines used to sustain patients who cannot breathe on their own, make the provision of life-saving treatments less aggressive and effective.

Respiratory Therapy Program Director, Jeff Rutherford, did not wait to get the desperate calls from local hospitals before he inventoried extra medical protection supplies his Respiratory Therapy department might provide.

“We knew there was going to be a great need for PPE, and we had a lot of supplies on campus for our Respiratory Therapy program students,” says Jeff. “We did not need substantial quantities because our students were using remote instruction. (The campus temporarily transitioned to the online learning platform to adhere to the ‘shelter-in-place’ mandate.) These supplies were best suited in the hands of those who need it to do their work.”

Many of those hands belong to fellow Respiratory Therapists who play an important role in patient survival. “Breath is an essential component to life,” says Jeff. “If your patient is not breathing and doesn’t have an airway, that patient will die.”

Respiratory Therapists are the ones who step in when a patient struggles with or stops breathing. “With breathing issues, everybody in the room tends to become a little more relaxed when the RT gets there,” says Jeff. “They do what needs to be done to make sure that that very important part of the equation is addressed.”

Jeff’s first calls came from Dignity Woodland and Mercy General Hospitals, affiliates of Dignity Health. “We’ve been partners with Dignity Health for many years, since first opening our RT program 15-years ago,” says Jeff. The hospitals are both extern sites for RT students about to graduate and who need on-the-job experience. They are also top employers for SJVC graduates. In addition, both hospitals serve as Advisory Board members for SJVC.

Dignity Woodland Hospital was loaned the ventilators while Mercy General Hospital was the recipient of SJVC’s PPE donation.

SJVC’s Respiratory Therapy program was happy to make a substantial donation of 550 procedure masks, 450 N95 masks, 60 isolation gowns and thousands of nitrile gloves. Perhaps most important was the loan of two ventilators destined to save patient lives.

Dignity Health was glad to send trucks for the lifeline that was extended. They loaded the boxes and cases of supplies, along with the two Hamilton G-5 ventilators, each about 5’ tall, weighing a couple of hundred pounds and costing $30-50,000 each. The ventilators will be returned when the pandemic lessens intensity.

Dignity Health was very appreciative of the donations and loan SJVC’s Respiratory Therapy program made to their facility and medical staff.

“We kept a small amount of supplies for us to be able to successfully conduct labs when our students return to campus,” says Jeff. “And the ventilators will be returned whenever we need them.”

Other local medical facilities reached out for donations of medical supplies. “There are hospitals in our geographic area who need the same things,” says Jeff. “They were a little frantic as they began to see patient admission numbers rise. But our hospitals haven’t been pushed to the brink of capacity yet. In northern California they and the rest of the community have done a good job of bending that curve.”

San Joaquin Valley College has always demonstrated a strong sense of community at all campus locations. “At Rancho Cordova we are very involved in the community,” says Jeff. “This is what we do. Here at the campus we have an entire wall of what students are involved in in our community partnerships. There are all kinds of activities that students bring forward that we are participating in as a campus.”

On-campus interaction and education are suspended for the moment. “We have an amazing faculty who were able to quickly adapt to e-learning and transition our courses from on-ground to online,” says Jeff. “Students have handled the transition to a virtual environment very well and we’ve kept their education moving forward.”

The need for additional supplies may continue, and communities will do what they can to help meet those needs. “We don’t have enough resources to provide for the entire community, but we had a chance to help, and we did,” says Jeff.

The Rancho Cordova campus is waiting, along with the rest of the world, for things to return to something that resembles normal. If this crisis increases or lessens, SJVC and all campus staff, faculty and students will be there to help in any way they can.

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