One Good Thing: Handicapped therapist saves lives


NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Respiratory therapists are among the nation’s most crucial front line workers in the fight against COVID 19, and Savannah Stuard is one of them – operating life-saving ventilators or manually pumping air into patients’ lungs in a technique called “bagging.”

But there’s something that sets Stuard apart.

This young therapist, only two years out of medical school, is saving lives at Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans with only one arm.

Stuard, born without a forearm on her left side, is often working 12-hour shifts, geared up head-to-toe in protective equipment, the nub of her left arm covered with a glove and tape to keep it secure and out of her way.

Working in a sterile environment has posed some challenges, she said.

“I don’t have two hands, only the one,” she said. “So, I have to sit there and methodically think it out, what to touch next, what to put on my hand to make it as sterile as possible.”

Stuard says she enjoys her work and inspiring others along the way.

“It’s so rewarding,” she said. “Most patients see me, and they’re like, whoa.

They ask me questions, and I answer them. It’s amazing.”

She said she volunteers at various foundations where she mentors young people with limb differences to show them how she learned to do things like tie her shoes, participate in gymnastics, play sports and learn karate.

She said she’s also encountered patients with limb differences.

They’ll say, “I lost my leg in a car accident, and you just give me so much hope,” Stuard said.

“That’s what I love to hear, and that’s what I strive (for) – to help people to be better, because they see someone that has less and doing more, and it makes them feel like they can do more,” she said.

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