Respiratory Therapy student Joe Colello gave up a successful career in business to pursue his passion — to become a Respiratory Therapist.
But it was a passion that grew out of personal tragedy. “I’m part of that group that no one wants to belong to,” he said.
Joe’s daughter Lucy died at age 7 of chronic lung disease. Because Joe was so involved with Lucy’s treatment, he came to know a great deal about respiratory therapy. Lucy underwent several operations in Boston, had a tracheostomy and used a nebulizer on occasion.
After Lucy died in 2008, Joe wrestled with continuing as an executive in his family’s Frontenac Crystal Springs business in Clayton, N.Y. or pursuing a career in health care. He enrolled in Upstate’s Respiratory Therapy program.
“It took me a while to get to the point where I had the courage to do it,” Joe said recently after class outside the Setnor Academic Building. “I had been wanting to for a while and then I said if I don’t do this now, I never will. Once I made the decision, it’s all come together.”
Joe is drawn toward pediatrics as a possible specialty.
“It’s tough, but I feel I can contribute and help parents in a way that other therapists can’t,” he said. “I can go into that room as a practitioner and as a parent.”
Joe, 37, lives in Watertown with his wife, Robin, and two daughters, Isabella, 13, and Nina, 7.
To cut down on commuting, Joe took advantage of Upstate’s distance learning classes offered at Jefferson Community College. He’s in the midst of his clinical rotations and is scheduled to graduate in 2012.
When he does begin his career as a Respiratory Therapist, Joe will bring a hard-earned perspective to the profession.
“You can’t judge people,” he said. “Maybe a parent wants to be with their child in the hospital every minute, but they had to go to work. I have insight into how that is.”