Adjusting to Tracheostomy: Silence of the Lambs
I woke up in an unfamiliar room with no memory of what I was doing there. I opened my mouth in an attempt to speak, but no air came out. The only sound I heard was the hissing of air through a straw that protruded from my neck. My abilities were being replaced by artificial plumbing that kept me alive.
And Asian nurse wearing turquoise scrubs appeared by my side. “Hi,Cavin. My name is Joy.” She spoke warmly as she inspected the cyborg breathing apparatus on my neck.
The entire inside of my throat itched unbearably. As frustrating as it was to have an unscratchable itch, my discomfort was focused on the fact that I could no longer talk! My fear of being unable to communicate elicited a panic in me as I imagined a seemingly nebulous existence of silent obscurity.
In retrospect, my concern was overblown. We don’t need a voice in order to communicate. I have since worked with survivors who are struggling far more, and I have read books from authors who are not only unable to talk, but unable to move any muscle voluntarily. Without help, these survivors are unable to communicate, not only with the people around them, but with their own body. This condition is called locked-in syndrome for obvious reasons.
Joy looked into my eyes with compassion. The landscape in her brown iris was painted with an understanding and empathy for the fear that she could see in mine. “It’s OK.” She mouthed as she clasped my open hand between both of hers, and my fear slightly settled. “Thank you.” I mouthed back to her and the corners of her mouth rose. I had to find a new way to converse, and Joy helped me to find a possible way.
With some medical grade wet naps, she cleaned around my new breathing apparatus and asked me if I needed anything. “Are you in pain?” Although my eyes probably said yes, my head said no, nodding from side to side.”Do you want sleeping medication?” She knew exactly what I needed. I nodded yes, and Joy walked out of the room, later returning to administer an IV sleeping medication. As the drip seeped into my veins, my first night with a tracheostomy tube was brought to a close.
Good nurses change lives. Good nurses save lives. Good nurses are the backbone of our medical system and I am so grateful to all of those who are truly on the front lines of hospital care.
When working with clients, making friends with those who are on the front lines is so imperative. Nurses and caretakers are with your loved one more than anyone, so a compassionate approach that shows a desire to partner and to assist with them can make a world of difference.
By aligning with the healthcare team, so many more treatment options become possible. With nurse support, all of my clients in this position have successfully implemented better nutrition, supplementation, and other practices that research shows to be safe and effective, even if they are not yet part of the medical standard of care. Large, therapeutic doses of certain supplements (10x+ recommended dosage) have been implemented. So far, I have seen results like improved attention and cognition, better balance, enhanced wound healing, and even complete remediation of infections.
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