As you all know, I was hospitalized this past summer in critical condition for an extended period of time. To be exact they didn’t let me out for 114 days.
This proved to be a huge setback for me.
Not only was I trached, leaving me unable to speak or eat food. But I also was left respirator dependent, which comes with its own set of complications.
This being the case, one may wonder what is my frame of mind generally, being in this state, or specifically upon finally cutting loose from my hospital imprisonment.
Well, if you possess such an inquiring mind, you’ve come to the right place! For herein you shall find the answers you so crave!
The first stage of my hospitalization exile, I couldn’t tell you my state of mind. Because I was so weak and sick with raging infections, I was quite unaware of what was happening to me.
Gradually, I came back to my senses. It was then that I had to mentally and emotionally reconcile what I was (and still viewed myself) with what I had become (still uncomfortable with the man in the mirror).
I found it a painful and heart breaking process.
Actually, I couldn’t cope with the prospect of not speaking or eating my wife’s yummy food.
I knew one thing, I desperately wanted the trach out. I yearned for a return to what I knew as normalcy.
I knew it would take incredible effort. But I told my doctors that I had successfully weaned off a trach and respirator in the past.
This occurred shortly after the accident. I had been trached immediately following the accident. Through blood, sweat and tears (just kidding about the sweat. Spinal cord injured individuals don’t sweat!), I worked extremely hard to wean myself off of the trach.
In fact, this was so groundbreaking that my world class respirologist had myself videotaped while I was still incarcerated in the ICU in order to show it to respirologists in his world wide lectures. I would like to show you the video that was taken all those years ago.
This improved my life immeasurably! I eventually gave inspirational lectures before large audiences in Ottawa and all over North America and Israel. I also skyped with classes and groups around America. In addition, I was privileged to be interviewed on radio and in print. Plus, I was able to return to my passion of teaching young people, teenagers and adults!
I actively sought out these opportunities in the hope that I could enrich the lives of others, thereby being mekadesh Hashem (sanctifying Hashem). As well, I knew I had to do something positive with my new situation.
I felt so alive with meaning and fulfillment! I found purpose in my life! And I was so grateful and super motivated to carry on! I would like to show you a photo of our chizuk wall (inspirational wall).
Yes, I wanted freedom from the machines. And I was sure I could do it based on my previous history!
Before I was discharged from my latest ICU sojourn, I tearfully asked my doctors if I could do it again.
Their response? “You are an atypical patient”. Meaning, it could be done!
Indeed, when I finally returned home I tried incredibly hard to accomplish my goal.
As a first step this involves going “cuff down” for long periods of time, eventually building up to”cuff down” for the whole day. Let me now explain what is meant by “cuff down”.
There is a bulb connected to my trach in my throat which serves to hold the trach in place.”Cuff down” refers to being able to tolerate having the cuff down (that is, having the bulb deflated.) so that essentially, I am breathing on my own.
If you saw me blowing a whistle in an earlier post, that only could have happened because I was cuff down, so air could pass through my upper air way.
Indeed, I had sporadic success. Initially, I actually built up to 3 hours!
But alas, as hard as I tried the promising start was short lived. For an inexplicable reason I started to produce large amounts of secretions from my lungs, they caused me to cough and sputter violently. This unfortunate turn of events precluded the possibility of continuing to meet my goal.
So I was stuck, having to use a highly frustrating letter board to communicate.
The frustrating part is that in order to communicate I would have to gaze at the box that contained the letter of the word I wanted say. This was accomplished by someone reading aloud all the letters until I nodded my head to indicate the letter I wanted.
Here is a photo of the letter board.
After another of months, of maddening efforts with the board, I finally got my too hot to trot eyeball gaze computer. This completely changed my life! It finally gave me a voice! In a very real sense. It gave me back my humanity!!
Now, after 10 months of being shut up, I find it extremely difficult to stop talking.
As a blessed plus, my personality and sense of humor comes through! And , what is most gratifying, is being able to say, “Thank you” or, “goodbye” to people even when the letter board is not available!
In the immortal words of Charles Dickens, “never say never!”