Two healthcare providers in medical face masks and gloves stand with their arms folded in the lobby of a hospital, on either side of a sign that reads "Heroes work here, Acuity Specialty Hospital"

Two of our heroes from Acuity Specialty Hospitals of Ohio Valley: Michelle Robinson, nurse (left) pictured with Rick Bain, respiratory therapist (right) – thank you for all you do! ❤️ #TeamAcuity
We will get through this together!

You’ve seen the hashtag, but today we’d like to introduce you to one of the #healthcareheroes we’ve come to depend on. Rick Bain is a respiratory therapist and member of the Acuity family who is on the front line, helping people recover from serious respiratory illness every day. Check out the interview to see what it’s like working in a Long Term Acute Care specialty hospital, what he thinks of the homemade masks, and what lifts his spirits during quarantine. 

What is your job title, and what do you do with Acuity?

 I’m Rick Bain, and I am an RRT, a Registered Respiratory Therapist BS (Bachelor of Science). I’ve been a respiratory therapist for 28 years, and this is my 15th year with Acuity. I’ve been at Acuity since April of 2016, I’m a float respiratory therapist and work at all 3 facilities. I was a patient liaison but could not get the clinical aspect out of my soul, so I went back to clinical work. I honestly cannot believe they pay me to do what I do. I’m the luckiest guy in the world to get to do this. I love every single person that I work with, I cannot say enough about our staff. Our PCTs, nurses, Mr. Cooper, Mrs. Weaver, I’d take a bullet…in the leg maybe…for any of them! I like to think they would too.

I spent 4 years in the Navy before being honorably discharged and becoming a respiratory therapist. I’m married to Lisa, a registered Nurse in Radiology. We have two daughters together–Olivia is 15, Elizabeth is 17. They are the reason that I do everything that I do. They’re my everything. 

How does it make you feel when you see people talking about hashtag #heroes?

I’m a practicing Buddhist, been practicing Buddhism for 14 years. A wise person lets go of praise as easily as they let go of insult. My biggest fear is to get a big head. We are the flavor of the month, just like firefighters after 9/11. I love what I do. I don’t need an alarm clock to go to work. 

I have a 15 year old and 17 year old daughter–they don’t think I’m a hero. I’m the guy who yells at them when they do poorly in school. Any time I start feeling special, I come home and stay humble! It is great to be appreciated. It is great to know that people feel that esteem for us, and not let it get too carried away, but I do appreciate the accolades. It’s wonderful. 

Is it really a front line?

It feels more like business as usual. I’ll tell you why. We do not have a COVID patient now. But being a referral-based facility, it’s usually run its course by the time it gets to us. They don’t come to us off the streets, we have a heads up [from the referring hospital] and plenty of time to prepare for the patient. It takes the pressure off. We then allow the hospitals to clear space and beds. We’re more like a second line facility. 

I don’t want to diminish what we do. If they’re sick and can’t breathe right now, they would go to the ER and ICU. If they need to be on a vent for a long time, they come here. Our job is to wean them off the vent. 

How have the supply issues affected you?

 As far as ventilators, we have plenty of ventilators. The PPE is an issue all over the place. We do have PPE issues, we’re not immune to that. Not to the point that I’m really concerned, because a lot of employees have started making masks and donating supplies to us. One of our secretaries, Ellie Garbark, she’s like a daughter to me. She and her mom had a bunch of fabric donated from Jo-Ann fabrics. Faith Hall, our pharmacy technician, made a bunch of masks. She’s a wonderful girl. People are doing their parts. I don’t feel threatened. We do have N95s. Not a lot, but I think we’ll have that to suffice us. Mrs. Weaver [the VP of Clinical and acting CEO] will find a way to get us through this, she always does. 

How do you feel about the mask debate? Should folks bother making homemade masks? Should they not have bought medical masks? 

I don’t get frustrated when I see someone wearing a [medical] mask in public. Anger isn’t going to help anything. I don’t get angry when I see someone in an N95, as long as they aren’t stealing them from hospitals to get them! I’m not worried. Maybe there’s something wrong with me and I should be worried. But we all need to take care of ourselves. 

People say difficult times build character. No it doesn’t. It reveals character. You’re going to see people that you think are stand up, maybe you’ll see them doing something they wouldn’t normally do, and some people you don’t care for you’ll realize you had pegged wrong. We help each other out, we’re going to be there for each other. If God forbid we get into a tenuous situation, I’m not afraid.

We’re not in a war zone yet. If and when we get to that point, we’ll see, but right now we’re giving very good care, and our patients are in extremely capable hands.

Whatever is going to help, do it. That bandanna, maybe it will stop something getting to you. It’s better than nothing. I saw a guy with a 5 gallon water cooler jug for offices cut in half over his head in the grocery store. It was hysterical! It’s the time to get innovative. If you think it’s helping, God bless you. Masks work both ways. It protects me from you, and you from me! You don’t know where I’ve been! You have a poor patient lying in that bed, and they’re already apprehensive, and they see you coming in with all this gear on. It makes them feel like they’re really sick. It helps put them at ease to hear that I’m protecting them from me also. It can be disheartening otherwise.

What do you wish more people knew as they adjust to the epidemic life?

The best thing for people to do is just to use common sense. It’s a shame that it takes something like this for people to learn how to wash their hands. They’re emphasizing something we were taught in kindergarten, that we should have known all along. We could save a lot of lives if people would do the simple things. It’s taking the middle path. You don’t want to overreact or use scare tactics, especially with kids. Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. Quit rubbing your eyes and picking your nose. Stay home and wash your hands.

What is quarantine like for you? Life as usual? 

It’s life as usual. I’m a homebody. You’re going to find me working in my yard or just hanging out here. My trips to the store are not as frequent, but when I go I have a full shopping cart. We stopped eating out–my kids live on Burger King usually. My teenage girls are getting along better, they’re learning to co-exist.

My daughter walked the dog in an inflatable dinosaur costume the other day. My neighbors loved it. We all need to laugh a little harder.

We heard that you can see the skyline in Los Angeles now. The pollution in NY has dropped by like 40%. The flowers are blooming better. The curve is starting to flatten. There’s hope. 

That’s great. Got any final words of wisdom to share with us? 

 I’ll leave you with two things:

  1. Always give 100%, unless you’re donating blood.
  2. Never take a sleeping pill and a laxative pill in the same night.

Haha! Thanks for your time, Rick!

It was fantastic to catch up with Rick and learn a little bit more about the people behind the face masks who are there for us when we need them the most. Thank you, Rick, and thank you to all of our Acuity healthcare heroes!