Thursday, June 5, 2014

FAQs: Why the Trach?

Sometimes I get asked why I still have a trach even though I'm not dependent on a ventilator anymore now that I have my diaphragm pacer. There are several important reasons:

Even though I'm no longer on the ventilator, sometimes I still need to have my airway suctioned out when I get a buildup of secretions that make it difficult to breathe. On average I need suction a few times a day; sometimes more, sometimes not at all. It just depends on how much gunk I get in my throat/airway, or how bad the allergens are in the air. (I've needed to be suctioned a little more often this spring than I usually do because there must be more pollen and stuff like that in the air.)

When I get suctioned, we stick a thin suction catheter down my trach and suck out any secretions with a special machine. Maintaining access to my airway is a must because it would be difficult to suction without it.

One of the other main reasons I still have my trach is just in case I need to go back on a ventilator. This has only happened a couple of times since I got the diaphragm pacer back in 2006. (I think both of these times were when I was hospitalized and my body was too sick/too weak to just rely on my pacer alone to breathe for me. I temporarily needed a little extra breathing support until I regained my strength and could go back on the pacer.)

Keeping the trach is basically a backup or a precaution just in case something were to go wrong with the pacer. That's highly unlikely, but you never know, and it would be much easier to maintain an existing trach rather than having to do another tracheotomy down the road if I were to ever to need it.

I know the trach is another thing that kind of emphasizes my limitations and I wish it wasn't necessary, since it makes me look different. It's also something people sometimes ask about (usually kids), but at least I'm no longer on a ventilator, because that was even more noticeable. I hope this all makes sense and explains why I still have a trach.


Julie said...

Hi Heather,
Thank you for explaining this. I understand it a lot more now.

Just curious, did your Mum need training in how to do your trach, if so was it hard? Also, is your Mum the only person who can do this, if not do any of your helpers do it too?

Heather (Paralyzed with JOY!) said...

Yes, she did receive special training to learn what to do in order to work the vent and know how to care for the trach. Some of my other helpers also know how to help with those sorts of things, too. It's not hard, you just it to learn the technique.

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