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Local high school athletic trainers now help move unconscious COVID-19 ICU patients

Trainers are now proning patients to help them breathe.

HOUSTON — From the high school baseball field to the ICU, many Fort Bend Independent School District athletic trainers were reassigned after classes were canceled.

“The next thing you know schools are pulling their teams from the fields because their school is prohibiting them from being there,” athletic trainer Victoria Pineda said.

Pineda and fellow athletic trainers quickly learned they would be reassigned through their contracts with the hospital systems to ICUs.

“When work in a high school population, you’re working with kids who don’t want to run a mile or who want to get out of practice,” Pineda said. “You’re not dealing with a life-or-death situation.”

Pineda and the Fort Bend ISD athletic trainers she works with are part of the hospitals’ proning team.

The team is tasked with moving unconscious COVID-19 ICU patients from their backs to their bellies every several hours.

“I have seen things at this point that I never thought I would,” Pineda said.

It usually takes five proning team members to move one patient.

The method has produced significant positive results in hospitalized COVID-19 patients because it allows patients to get more oxygen.

“Whenever a patient is put on their stomachs, it allows that fluid to go to the front of the lungs and the respiratory therapists are able to suction out that fluid more easily,” Pineda said.

Pineda says the work of the proning team in the hospitals is still needed as much today as at any point in the crisis.

She says they all wear PPE, and that to her knowledge, nobody from their team has gotten sick.

“You’re truly safer in that room in all your PPE than you are going to Target on a normal day right now,” Pineda said.

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