Connie Stout, pulmonary function technician, knows when it’s time to get loud. She’s good at it, especially while coaching her patients to exhale and empty their lungs during their pulmonary function tests (PFTs).
“I tell patients to really blast it out,” Connie said. “But sometimes I get so loud that my officemates make sure I work in a room with a door!”
Getting good results from PFTs is important to Connie. The test, which measures lung performance and uncovers abnormalities in a patient’s pulmonary system, helps her colleagues at Akron Children’s diagnosis and treat people with breathing issues.
After 33 years evaluating respiratory problems, the last 20 of those at Children’s, Connie retires on June 3. She looks forward to unstructured days spent enjoying her family, especially her 8 grandchildren, and working in her yard with her husband.
What brought you to Children’s?
I needed a change after working 13 years in a cardiopulmonary rehab unit at an adult hospital. I saw a job posting on Akron Children’s website, applied and Susie Kelly, who recently retired, hired me to work in the Robert T. Stone, MD, Respiratory Center’s pulmonary function test lab.
What was going on in your life then?
My husband and I had a full house: 5 kids, including 5-year-old twins, living at home. It was chaos, but fun!
Have you always worked in the same department and role?
At first, I worked part-time in the PFT lab, later becoming full-time. We saw patients with all sorts of breathing-related problems caused by a wide range of respiratory symptoms and disorders, such as asthma, sleep apnea and cystic fibrosis. I filled in for the Center for Allergy and Immunology, conducting PFTs. Five years ago, I moved to allergy and immunology after Rajeev Kishore, MD, pediatric allergist/immunologist who was then the department’s director, worked tirelessly to add a pulmonary function technician to the team. I’ve known Dr. Kishore for many years because my oldest child got allergy shots from him.
What have your biggest contributions been while here?
Working with our cystic fibrosis patients who are seen in the Lewis H. Walker, MD, Cystic Fibrosis Center because of how heavily their care relies on the pulmonary function tests we administer. It causes them a lot of anxiety. Cystic fibrosis patients have thick, sticky mucus that causes problems with breathing and digestion. If their PFTs are too low, they might have to be hospitalized and undergo frequent PFTs to monitor their progress while they improve.
How has Children’s changed since you started here?
Overall, COVID-19 changed the way medical facilities run. At Children’s, we’ve always worn gowns, gloves and face masks while administering PFTs to cystic fibrosis patients. Now, those strict protocols are used for all patients receiving pulmonary function tests. Also, we sanitize and wait 15 minutes between patients even though we have HEPA filters in our rooms.
Another change is the digitization of pulmonary function tests to calculate results. I remember my boss, Susie Kelly, using mathematical equations to calculate a patient’s lung function and transferring it to a report for the clinical team.
What’s your most memorable and/or happiest moment at Akron Children’s?
I remember a girl who used to come down from hematology for a specific kind of aerosol therapy to treat her cancer. When she was finally declared cancer-free, she brought us each a roll of Life Savers candy with a note that read, “Thanks for being part of my treatment team!”
With so many little children here, did someone especially touch your heart?
They all have their own stories, but when I would go into a patient’s room and they recognized me and weren’t worried or afraid to come with me to do their PFT, it’s priceless!
What do you look forward to the most in retirement?
No alarm clock! Besides sleeping in, sipping coffee and relaxing, I’m looking forward to more time with my grandkids. The older ones are in sports and we like to go to their games and cheer them on.
Do you have any advice for people just starting at Children’s?
Love the kids. They trust us to do our best and make or keep them well.
What music do you like? Where and how do you listen to it?
I like country music. I listen to it in the car and through my earbuds when I am out walking.