Covid in California: On the frontlines with Speech-Language Pathologist, Liana Kogan

March 18, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Do you know anyone working on the frontlines during COVID?

I had the pleasure of interviewing my Hot 8 Yoga buddy and healthcare worker, Liana Kogan, who happens to be a Speech-Language Pathologist. Her story about working on the frontlines is eye-opening and jaw-drop worthy. Both literally and figuratively. For those of you that know or see healthcare workers, please thank them for their selfless service and immense responsibilities, both now and in the future. Thank you, Liana, for being willing to share your story with me.

RR: How has Covid-19 impacted you personally?

Initially, I thought it was just another virus that the media was hyping up. However, as the months passed and members of my own family and friends contracted COVID, it became apparent that we were dealing with something very serious. The fact that there was, and still is, so much uncertainty, made it very uneasy for me personally.

RR: Did you or anyone you know had Covid-19? 

LK: Yes, members of my family and some of my friends have had COVID. While some have fully recovered, some still have lingering symptoms months later. I also know people who have passed away from complications of the virus.

RR: What do you miss most about life before Covid-19? 

LK: I miss normalcy. I miss doing hot yoga with my hot8 community. I miss going out dancing, traveling, and seeing people walking on streets without their face masks.

RR: What has Covid-19 made you grateful for?  

LK: Something I was already so grateful for, but even more so now, my big, beautiful family.

RR: What specifically changed your personal / professional life during this time? I.E. what daily routine did you have to adjust? 

LK: This answer is complex. The pandemic has affected me personally and professionally, in more ways than I could ever have imagined. I’ve been a Speech-Language Pathologist for about 13 years and my job goes beyond teaching people how to speak again.

A medical speech-language pathologist works in an acute setting or a hospital and diagnoses and treats a wide range of speech, language, cognitive, and dysphagia or swallowing disorders. SLPs work with patients affected by a variety of neurological disorders, such as brain damage, stroke, seizure, and cancer, and many others.

Our job is to provide therapy for the COVID patients coming off of the ventilator, in addition to working on their ability to swallow, we also focus on their loss of voice as well as cognitive deficits related to the delirium and confusion of being in the ICU for an extended period of time. During intubation, the tube goes down the throat and through the vocal cords, keeping them open so the patient can breathe. To be able to speak, vocal cords should close in a certain way. The vocal cords must also be closed to prevent food or fluids from going down the wrong pipe. Aspiration occurs when a foreign body such as food, liquids or saliva enters the lungs by accident. This can lead to aspiration pneumonia, which is a serious and life threatening condition. As a Speech-Language Pathologist, my goal every day is to use my best clinical judgement to assess and provide the appropriate therapy for my patients so they can safely and adequately eat by mouth and communicate. The challenge is to be able to rehabilitate a patient’s voice and swallow function while also protecting myself and my family. Fortunately, the hospital I work for never had a PPE shortage. Since visitation is highly restricted, the toughest part of my job has been to witness some of my patients pass away from complications of COVID without their loved ones by their side.

RR: Is there a story behind your mask?

LK: I am a very private person and am not speaking up to call myself a hero or show the lines on my face from wearing an N95 mask all day. I am truly honored and humbled to do my job during this difficult time. I just want people to know what is really going on in hospitals, to understand that there is so much more to this than what the media portrays and a lot of things still remain unknown. I have no political agenda. Rather, I choose to speak up on behalf of healthcare workers who face this virus on a daily basis, as well as all the people who have been affected by COVID and required hospitalization. I have seen firsthand that this virus can affect people of all ages with no underlying medical conditions. It is very real. Working in the COVID unit has made me see things from a different perspective and has made me appreciate things I once took for granted, like simply waking up in the morning.

RR: What has been the biggest challenge for you during this time?

LK: Working on the frontlines and seeing people suffer and die has been the biggest challenge in the last 9 months. Being a highly sensitive person, it has been a challenge to separate my work from my emotions.

RR: What are you most excited for when things return to “normal”? 

LK: Unfortunately, this pandemic has created an even greater human disconnect than there was before. Fear and isolation have adversely impacted people’s mental health. I do think COVID is here to stay for a while, but more than anything, I am looking forward to probably what everyone is looking forward to: normalcy.

Lastly, I just want to express that it’s important not to let fear overtake our daily lives, as stress suppresses the immune system. However, we do need to be aware that COVID does exist and take proper precautions. Oh, and please get vaccinated, of course, if you did your research and no longer believe that it will make you grow a tail.

Thank you, Liana, for sharing your story with me!

And to everyone else - thank your healthcare and in the future!


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