Speech pathologist on the front lines helping COVID-19 patients recover

Speech pathologist helping COVID-19 patients

SHEFFIELD, Ala. (WAFF) - We know that doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers are taking care of COVID-19 patients in hospitals.

What happens when those patients leave these healthcare facilities?

It can be difficult, especially for patients who were on a ventilator. It’s a job that’s needed now more than ever. Speech pathologists are helping people impacted by COVID-19 regain their lives.

“A lot of people with coronavirus end up having swallowing difficulty,” said Speech-language pathologist, Taylor Smith.

A patient’s inability to swallow correctly can result in even more health complications.

"If your larynx isn’t sealing or closing fast enough then food or liquid would go down the wrong way and that becomes dangerous because if food or liquid are constantly going down the wrong way towards your lungs you can develop what’s called aspirations pneumonia and we don’t want to go from COVID to getting pneumonia,” said Smith.

Smith sees patients for different reasons.

The biggest part of her job is teaching patients how to speak and swallow again, especially those who were on a ventilator.

“So by the time it’s time for them to eat again then they’re muscles just haven’t been worked out in a while so you kind of has to retrain them to chew and we have exercises that we use to teach people to be aware of their muscles that they use to swallow but to actually exercise those muscles too,” said Smith.

She says while it’s not easy being on the front lines its rewarding to help patients in their road to recovery.

“When you’re able to swallow normally we end up taking it for granted and then when people have that ability taken away from them then they are just so excited to even have an ice chip or some water,” said Smith.

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