Person of the Week
Respiratory Therapist, Barista
You always think that saving a person is the most important thing… That is your job to save people. I remember one time helping with a lady. She said, “Wow. You made my day!”
1. What led you to the mission of being a respiratory therapist and barista?
I always wanted to be in the medical field. I was thinking about being a doctor, but that didn’t happen. I studied nursing for two years, but didn’t like it. That’s why I switched to respiratory therapy. I went to college to get certified as a respiratory therapist and then I did work at a hospital for two years and a half. I studied at Forest Park Community College. This is a job that means a lot to me.
My sister started a restaurant and she asked me to help her out. I left my job and helped. After helping my sister, I became a barista. It was natural for me to make coffee. I grew up in Asmara Eritrea and every day we had coffee. My mother made coffee three times a day. When someone came to visit our house, she would make coffee. It is very, very good coffee. It is a part of my culture.
Being a barista is a job that pays my bills. It might be intimidating for newcomers because you have to learn all the recipes for the drinks and memorize them. When people order their drinks you have to make them from memory. There is lots of training. There is also continuous training to learn new drinks, but that isn’t so hard. Every two months or six months we get new drinks. For us, it’s not so hard to learn the new drinks, but for the new people, they have to learn all the drinks from the past and the new ones!
2. What does this mission mean to you?
I love being a respiratory therapist. It means saving lives. I help people on ventilators. I help people with COPD and lung diseases – lung cancer – all kinds of problems. Being a respiratory therapist is the first line to saving people’s lives. We work hand in hand with doctors to do all this treatment. We use breathing treatments and breathing exercises. It is sad when you have to put people on ventilators, but at the same time you are saving lives.
I like being a barista. It is nice to meet so many people – thousands of people. Some of them are extremely nice and I think about them often. When they come in for coffee in the morning, they are happy and ready for some coffee. People smile. I like that part.
3. What was your best day as a respiratory therapist and barista?
When people come to the emergency room with life and death situations, we might give them CPR and they wake up! That is a good day – saving a life. It is always nice to work with people who need your help. As a respiratory therapist, I give them their treatments and they start breathing. That is the best part of the job.
I remember one time helping with a lady. I gave her a breathing treatment. She was so happy. She said, “Wow. You made my day!”
Being a barista is fun. It’s not as meaningful to me as being a respiratory therapist, but it does have meaning. My best day as a barista is when people come in and are so nice.
4. What was your worst day as a respiratory therapist and barista?
I don’t think I can have a worst day as a barista or a respiratory therapist. It’s always exciting. There is always an opportunity to help people. That’s what is so exciting about both jobs. As a respiratory therapist, most of the time I am saving lives. That is pretty nice.
I am a very emotional person. If I see someone crying, even if you don’t tell me why this person is crying, I feel like crying as well. So I am very sensitive. I have seen people pass away. When a person passes away, the family comes in and cries. I feel like crying as well. I myself might cry with them. This is a very difficult time.
The saddest day was when I had a patient on my list that needed to be treated on that day. I came into his room. Usually when the person has passed away, there is a sign that lets you know we don’t need to treat that person. They didn’t have that sign. I went into that person. I was setting up my stuff. The family was staring at me. They asked, “What are you doing?” The person had already passed away. One family member got up and said, “He has already passed away. You didn’t know that?” So that was the saddest part of my job.
Every time you see that happen it is like a new thing. You don’t think that people dying is ok. You always think that saving a person is the most important thing. Every time you see someone gone, it is heartbreaking. Young, old, it doesn’t matter. That is your job to save people.
As a barista, I have people who are not nice. But there are so many people who are nice that I forget about the people who are not.
5. How did you survive your worst day?
It is not easy to make it through the bad day. It is difficult. When you see the next person is super nice, you forget about that one who was not nice. You move on. The next person is nice, is very friendly, you forget about the other one.
You think positive. You don’t focus on the negative things, and you focus on the bright side of life.