Health Care Hero: Therapist once breathed life into a newborn baby

The Dayton Daily News is profiling the people who work hard every day to save lives and take care of us. Nominate a Health Care Hero by emailing

Name: Aaron Schirtzinger

Hometown (where you live now): Dayton

Job title: Respiratory Therapist

Where do you work: Upper Valley Medical Center in Troy

Describe what your day is like/what you do: A typical day varies for a respiratory therapist. I work in the ER, ICU, obstetrics and do floor therapy. In the ER I could be giving breathing treatments for a COPD/asthma/CHF patient, or being called to all emergencies hospital wide — traumas, cardiac alerts and possible strokes. All of those could require possible intubation and placement on a ventilator, or placed on a Bipap machine or a high flow o2 device that are all for assisting one's breathing. All respiratory therapists at my institution are there for a patient's first breath and for their unfortunate last. Simply put, "If one cannot breathe, one cannot live."

What inspired you to get into health care? I've always had a fascination with helping others. I know it sounds cliche but it is true. Everyone deserves compassion and to be cared for when they need it, and everyone will always need someone to care for them. When someone comes out of a situation that they otherwise wouldn't have, it puts a smile on my face and a tear in my eye to know that I helped them recover. To me, this makes my profession all worth it!

What's a memorable experience you've had in health care? A couple of years back I started taking care of newborns at my institution. One night an emergency came into the birthing center. I was called to respond, not knowing what I was getting into. A mother had given birth in a car to a pre-term infant and was rushed in to us lifeless. With the assistance of another respiratory therapist and the nursing staff, I proceeded to intubate and breathe life into the infant. When my shift ended, I was on a life high that I had never experienced. This definitely was a highlight to my 20-plus year career.

What do you want readers to know about your job right now? Right now since COVID-19 has arrived, times have been more stressful for respiratory therapists and all health care workers. But we will survive because it's what we do as professionals. There are things we have not seen before or dealt with but we will learn, treat and persevere. Respiratory therapists are there for all patients of all stages of life. We may not always be seen or recognized by the public but we are an essential part of a team that works hard to bring your loved ones home. This is why I do what I do.


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