Mighty Blog

Children’s Minnesota respiratory therapist takes skills abroad to make a big impact

This time of year is all about expressing gratitude for what we have and for giving back to communities both near and far. But we know our kid experts don’t need a holiday or a season to do this. Year-round, they lead with compassion, and look within and beyond our halls and walls to make a difference. Derebi Atoma, transport respiratory therapist at Children’s Minnesota, exemplifies this.

Earlier this year, Derebi took a medical mission trip to Ethiopia, his home country. Through the University of Minnesota’s Global Medicine Department, he brought his coveted skills to Adama Hospital Medical College in Adama, Ethiopia, located just 60 miles south from the nation’s capital.

Derebi Atoma, transport respiratory therapist, talking

“When I arrived, I was shocked by the loud ventilator alarms in the ICU and the staff’s lack of urgency about them,” Derebi shared. “Ventilator alarms can go off for several reasons, like machine malfunction, inappropriate settings and physiological changes that could be life-threatening. Some patients were working hard to breathe on a ventilator. This alerted us that the ICU staff needed further training and quickly.”

Derebi and the American medical team’s schedule varied but typically their day started with bedside training on mechanical ventilators in the ICU. Derebi helped them modify ventilator settings to better treat patients. In the afternoon, he led a lecture, mechanical ventilator simulation and problem solved through various mock scenarios.

Because the hospital doesn’t have respiratory therapists on staff, ICU and emergency department nurses were the focus of this crucial training. Derebi shared that 60.5% of participants reported feeling more comfortable managing mechanically ventilated patients as a result of the training, a significant improvement.

Because of the success of the trip, Derebi plans to return for another medical mission next year. While there, he also gets to enjoy time with his family, many of whom still reside in Ethiopia. “This trip helped me appreciate the advanced training and technology that we have in the U.S. and reminded me not to take it for granted,” he said. “I would like to thank to all who contributed to this mission. Together, we made a big difference in the lives of many. And I am so proud to represent Children’s Minnesota while doing so!”

We are so proud of you, Derebi!

Alexandra Rothstein