It was ‘get off the ventilator’ trial day number two for Amanda. She failed yesterday. So, after a fairly good nights sleep (considering you are in a hospital and they wake you for everything all night long) they turned off her vent machine at 7am and the trial began.
Now to help you understand what this all involves – a vent machine forces air and oxygen through a tube that goes in your mouth and down your windpipe and into your lungs. It pushes air in and breathes for you. A person can’t talk, swallow, or breathe through their nose while this is happening. In addition, there is usually a second tube in your mouth that goes down to your stomach so they can feed you something while the other machine breathes for you and you can’t swallow or do much of anything. When they turned off Amanda’s machine, she had to breathe on her own while these two tube were in her mouth and constantly toying with her gag reflex at the back of her throat. She had to mouth breath through the tubes and do all the air exchange in her lungs. For 2 hours.
Poor thing. She lay so very still in that bed and just tried to stay calm and breathed in, then out, breathed in, then out while suppressing the dire urge to cough and choke. At times, she did start gagging and she would lurch in a silent coughing fit while her face turned all red and tears trickled down her face. Then she would settle down and work on breathing … again. We turned the tv on as a distraction and that helped. And finally 2 hours went by.
At the end of the 2 hours, they turned the machine back on and had to have blood taken immediately because they could measure the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in her blood to determine if she was effectively breathing on her own without a machine to help. Well, they couldn’t get any blood out of her. She is so bloated right now and most of her veins have already been used and withered. A half hour went by and I said to the nurse – “They didn’t get blood and she’s back on the vent so even if someone could get blood now, it would not reflect how she did when SHE was breathing and not the machine.” “You’re right,” she said. After a call to the doctor at 11am, they had to turn off the vent AGAIN for Amanda to try AGAIN – this time for just half an hour and THEN they would do the blood draw. The vent got turned off for a second time and Amanda breathed … and breathed … and breathed … and then they said “Get some blood!” For the next 3 hours she was poked by about 5 different people and in more places than I could keep track of. The whole time Amanda lay there and calmly breathed and breathed and breathed (she had to breath without the machine for the accurate blood test results – all with 2 tubes down her throat). Somewhere in the middle of that time one person DID get a splash of blood in the syringe and sent it for testing but it ended up not being enough. Finally blood was collected and by 2:30 in the afternoon, we got the word that Amanda passed and the tubes could come out.
I was amazed at how beaten up my poor little Amanda was and yet so strong to stay patient while she breathed while trying not to gag and choke – and was poked over and over again for blood through the whole thing. My turn for tears.
So – she is breathing on her own with a little oxygen for support. She was sitting up in her wheelchair when I left this evening. She is a bloated little sausage with greasy sticky hair, needle pokes everywhere, a hospital gown too big, tape residue on her skin, bruises from heparin shots, and just the bravest girl I’ve ever known. She was happily catching up on messages on her phone and looking forward to some ice chips – she will get started with a clear diet for now. Her throat is sore and her speech is whispery and raspy right now. She will need lots of rest to keep breathing strong.
Thanks for your continued prayers and thoughts. Oh – and a big long-distance hug to a friend from this area who moved out west – I will only say that he plays the piano very well so if you know him – you know who I am talking about – he had this huge basket of food delivered to the hospital today (cookies, pastries, cheese, crackers, nuts, fruit). Wow. Very thoughtful. Thank you, sir. Love ya.
My time at home is now done. I need to freshen up and return to the hospital. It is my turn tonight. I will also be there all day tomorrow so Ted can work.