Astride his Harley out front of Bluffton Hospital, Bruce Parkins, a respiratory therapist here and at Hardin Memorial Hospital, is on the front line of the Covid-19 pandemic - Ada Herald
Astride his Harley out front of Bluffton Hospital, Bruce Parkins, a respiratory therapist here and at Hardin Memorial Hospital, is on the front line of the Covid-19 pandemic. (Ada Herald/Joe Schriner)

HARDIN COUNTY/BLUFFTON — Standing right in the middle of the front-line, as the Coronavirus War comes to the area, will be Bruce Parkins. He’s a respiratory therapist at both Bluffton Hospital and Hardin Memorial Hospital. His particular job with COVID-19 patients?

“I will be maintaining the airways and helping patients to breath,” he said. “If a ventilator is needed, that’s also my responsibility.”

Incidentally, Mr. Parkins is 65-years-old, which places him in the at-risk age range for this particular virus. Yet, nonetheless, it is in his nature to be of service, even with the risk.

In fact, he started to study to be a respiratory therapist shortly after his father died of lung cancer. Seeing the struggles of his father, and others in similar situations, it struck a chord in him to want to be part of the solution.

Mr. Parkins, like so many healthcare workers across the country, has been pressed into a tremendously heroic role.

Yet, as Mr. Parkins will be the first to tell you, he’s actually just kind of an average guy who likes the Cleveland Browns (some years), went to all his kids’ sports games when he was younger, and, to let his hair down, he likes to ride his Harley motorcyle.

It wasn’t always a Harley.

The year he graduated from Cory Rawson High School (Class of ’73, and he played defensive end on the Hornet football team and guard on the basketball team), he bought his first motorcycle. It was a 550 Suzuki. Fast.

His first job out of school was with the railroad, working on a Conrail “rail gang.” They covered an eight-state region in the Midwest and he was on the road, or rather on the rail, a lot.

In between trips, he got married and the couple had two children, Brandon and Jeremy.

Jeremy, particularly, took to the sport of soccer – and became quite a legend in these parts.

Jeremy, who was named First Team All-State in soccer at Bluffton High School, went on to be the only BHS soccer player to play professional soccer. (He played for the Columbus Crew.)

And not only was Mr. Parkins at almost every one of both his son’s games, but reports are he was one of the most enthusiastic, and loudest, fathers in the stands as well. (Jeremy now lives in Atlanta, works for Adidas, and Bruce regularly visits him there when he gets a few days off from the hospital. Brandon stayed close to home and lives in Findlay.)

But back to earlier days…

As mentioned at the outset, Mr. Parkin’s father contracted lung cancer. He died in 1985. This tremendously impacted his son.

While railroad work was steady, somewhat lucrative, Mr. Parkins started thinking more and more about getting into a profession that could help serve people like his father.

In turn, he eventually enrolled in Lima Technical College and was certified as a respiratory therapist in 1989. Later he would attend Rhodes State College, where he got an Advanced Associates Degree in Applied Sciences.

He has now worked in the field for 31 years, both at Bluffton Hospital and Hardin Memorial Hospital. Mr. Parkins also teaches CPR and First Aid classes at both hospitals, and at Rhodes State College.

While he sees what’s potentially coming (coronavirus spread) as one of the biggest challenges he’s faced, Mr. Parkins has tremendous confidence he, and the teams at both hospitals, can, indeed, meet the challenge. He said both are excellent hospitals with quite skilled personnel.

And while he will bring all 31 years of expertise to this battle, he also said, with asOVERSET FOLLOWS:surance, that in the end, ultimately “…it will all be in God’s hands.”

Note: For the past four summers, Mr. Parkins has taken his Harley to Sturgis, South Dakota for the nationwide Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in the beginning of August. Here’s hoping this virus thing is over by then, and there’s this local respiratory therapist — in a bandana on a Harley with a Browns sticker — heading east.