May is Asthma Awareness Month, so we're sharing stories of people who have been affected by asthma.
Hardip Kolar is a Respiratory Therapist (RT) at Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, BC. He was born and raised in Kelowna and now lives in Surrey with his wife Jaspreet. They are expecting their first child in April. We met Hardip when he was volunteering for Climb the Wall back in February, with the rest of the Respiratory Engagement Team through Fraser Health. He agreed to share with us some of what makes respiratory therapy and interesting and dynamic career.
1. Can you tell us about your path to becoming and RT?
I had childhood asthma, so I had dealt with respiratory therapists since I was five years old. I always had an interest in medicine and science, and then a friend from high school told me about the RT Program at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops. TRU is the only place that offers the RT Program in BC. I applied, got accepted in 2004 and graduated in 2007. I have been at Royal Columbia since.
2. What do you find most rewarding about being an RT?
So many things that it's hard to pinpoint just one. Currently, I love that I am an educator as a Clinical Resource Therapist. Since Royal Columbian is a teaching hospital, I enjoy teaching and sharing information of all sorts in regard to Respiratory Therapy with my colleagues and other staff. But, what I find most rewarding is being there for the patients. The connection I have because of my asthma is important and helps them understand how to improve the quality of their lives. I supply them with the resources to make sure they know what is out there to keep them healthy through management and prevention.
3. What would you like people to know about the work you do?
As respiratory therapists, we are a vital part of the health care team. We are involved with a baby's first breath, removing breathing tubes and monitoring life support machines. We are in ICU's, general wards, pediatric and neonatal wards. We also conduct pulmonary function tests and lead patients in pulmonary rehab. RT's handle patients that come into emergency departments with asthma and/or COPD exacerbation attacks. Our work involves people of all stages of life, with patients needing hugely different kinds of support. So, you can see how diverse the work is that we do.
4. What would you like people living with a lung disease to know about improving their lung health?
Seek out information. Resources such a pulmonary rehab are great for physical exercise and emotional support. Find a support group with your same ailment such as Better Breather's, and COPD-related groups.
Ask lots of questions. Community RT's are available for a home visit should you qualify. Here at Royal Columbian, we have a COPD educator who makes sure patients have a GP, assist in forming an action plan, teach people how to use devices such as puffers and make referrals to respirologists and pulmonary rehab clinics. We urge people to take full advantage of these great resources.
5. What are some things people can do in general to take care of their lungs and keep them healthy?
One very important thing is to not smoke, or if you do, quit. Watch out for secondhand smoke. Set yourself up on a regular exercise program with a proper diet. Drink lots of water. Get a flu shot every year. Stay away from pollutants such as gas emissions, fire smoke and dust of any kind if possible.
6. How are you involved as an RT within your community?
Through Fraser Health, we are part of the Respiratory Engagement Team for RT's from across the region, and we work with this community throughout the year. (For example, we have a booth at the Climb the Wall Fundraiser every year with the BC Lung Association!) We go into universities and high schools to inform students about careers for RT's.
During the winter, we provide care packs for homeless people living in Surrey and other parts of the Lower Mainland. This year we distributed 200 care packs to help people cope with the winter conditions.
Every April, we have an information booth at the Vasakhi Parade in Surrey. There is usually 300,000 to 400,000 people in attendance. At our booth we go over basic CPR, device teaching and raise public awareness, and it’s always very well received.
October is Respiratory Therapy week each year. We have information booths out there providing public awareness.
In addition to the Respiratory Engagement Team, I am on the Board of Directors of the BC Society of Respiratory Therapists. The BCSRT is a non-profit professional organization providing education to RT's in multiple health regions across the province.
7. Is there anything new happening in the RT world at Royal Columbia Hospital?
There sure is! Royal Columbia is expanding. Under construction is a new mental health building along with a ten floor acute care tower. ]All of this will increase opportunities for RT's. We will be able to offer more services to better treat our patient population. Very exciting!