Friday, April 22, 2011
Trachs and Vents 101--Suctioning
This little guy isn't an alarm, but it does have a pretty important job. This is our suction machine, and it suctions the junk out of Abby's trach, nose, and mouth. We have two because we need one to take with us when we go places and one to be stationary.
Without getting into too much of the gross details, the suction machine manually does for Abby what you do when you cough. We usually suction the trach between 6-8 times a day (more if she's sick). Although we could suction her nose all day long if we wanted to, we try to just use a tissue as much as possible and save the nose-sucking for when absolutely necessary. (Think how much your kids love/loved the nasal aspirator, and times that by 50. That's how much Abby "loves" getting her nose sucked!)
What she does truly love, though, is getting her mouth sucked! Now that she's putting toys in her mouth, she's creating a lot more saliva. Sometimes she can swallow it, but sometimes she needs some help. It's basically like the straw the dentist uses, but Abby LOVES it. She gets a huge smile on her face whenever I suck her mouth. She especially likes when I get her tongue stuck to it. Weirdo...
To suction the trach, you need to keep it as sterile as possible. That is difficult in a home environment, but we do everything possible to avoid contaminating the trach. We do all of the opening of packages and such before cleaning our hands so that a clean hand is what goes inside the glove. The gloved hand only touches the suction catheter and nothing else. You use your "dirty" (non-gloved) hand for everything but the catheter. After attaching the catheter to the suction tubing, you disconnect the vent and put the suction catheter down inside the trach to the specific measurement you're told based on the size of the trach. For Abby, we only go down 4 cm, which is not very far at all! She's so little that you don't have to go down very far to get the stuff out. In fact, going too deep could damage her throat.
It sounds complicated and it is at first, but you get the hang of it. Now, I don't even think twice about suctioning. It's funny how I used to be so concerned about messing up that I would freak myself out, and now I can carry on a conversation while doing pretty much any of these tasks. That's experience for you!