Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Hum of the Vent

The ventilator.

We have a love/hate relationship with the vent.

We hate that Jeff has to be on it. It's cumbersome. It's unsightly. Caregivers are scared to death of it. So are some of our friends.

We love it because without it, Jeff wouldn't be alive.

We are often asked if Jeff will always be on the vent. The truth is ... we don't know. We hope that, in time, he can be weaned. We've heard stories of people getting off the vent as many as 3-4 years after their accident. We also know people who will be on vents for the rest of their lives. Jeff might be one of those people.

We're prepared to live with the vent forever, if we have to.

I've become so accustomed to the sounds of the vent. Jeff's been on it since he arrived at the hospital just after the accident.

My body is trained to immediately respond to the alarm. Whenever the alarm goes off, my body shoots up from whatever position I'm in and starts moving toward Jeff and the vent. It's as if my body moves faster than my brain can process what's going on.

One evening, while putting Evie to bed, she and I were lying down telling stories in the dark, and the vent began alarming. We both bolted upright. I hurried out of the room as she called, "Run, Mama!"

When I sleep, the vent is literally 24 inches from my head. So each night I am lulled to sleep by the rhythmic "in and out" of the vent. It's actually quite soothing. And I can tell when Jeff starts to wake up from a deep sleep because the rhythm changes. The vent is so sensitive that it allows Jeff to initiate a breath. When he inhales through his nose, the vent pushes a breath into his lungs. Jeff has the ability to breathe on his own, but only for a limited time until his lungs and diaphragm muscle become tired. His record right now is about 30 minutes off the vent. But at the end of that time, he says he feels like he just got done with a jog.

I am thankful for the ventilator that breathes life into my husband. Even though it is cumbersome and unsightly, it's portable enough to allow him to move freely around our house, both inside and out. Ventilators haven't always been so portable. Even the vent that Christopher Reeve had was the size of a small window air conditioner. Jeff's is about the size of a laptop computer - just a little thicker.

Dear Vent:

We've decided we'll keep you around as long as you're needed. We would love to one day bid you farewell. But if we can't, that's okay too. We'll work around you.

With Gratitude,

The Sachs Family

1 comment:

  1. Kristen (and family), I'm totally with you on this! When I'm in the house by myself I marvel at how quiet it is without Mark's vent and at the same time I miss it. I've gotten so accustomed to hearing it it's strange when the sound isn't present. Mark would practice breathing without the vent in law school so he would stay awake! It's nice to know that he can be off of it for periods of time if need be. You ability to adapt to a "new world" is inspiring!