Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Suck it up

If I am not careful, I'm never going to have a chance of getting my face on a box of Wheaties.

When I was hospitalized at Kaiser in January, I was loaned a suction machine to use to clear the secretions that build up in my throat, mouth and trach. After a brief spell of using the machine at home, it got to the point where I was able to clear the secretions without the suction machine so I returned it.

Lately the secretions have gotten pretty severe so my hospice nurse thought it would be a good idea to begin using the suction device again.

It's at my side throughout the day and night, and when I'm not actually inserting the long stem down my throat to suck up the gunk —imagine my lips around a vacuum cleaner attachment and hose— I'm recharging the battery so it always will be ready when I need it.

The thing is, it looks like a bong. To the people who live in the apartment building next door, who have a panoramic view of my living room, it must look as if I'm perpetually stoned.

And the fact that I rarely change out of my pajamas these days just makes me look more like a stoner.

My neighbors upstairs and anyone who walks past my front door, on the other hand, probably think I spent 24 hours a day vacuuming.

The reality is that I wouldn't know the first thing about using a bong, and my disposition toward household cleanliness leans more to Oscar than to Felix.

By accident, I figured out a way of expelling secretions effectively without using the tube or switching on the machine. I close one nostril with a finger, place another finger on my trach to plug it up, and then make like Dizzy Gillespie and blow.

It's the most effective way I know to achieve a secretion-free airway but also the grossest. It's also difficult to control where the secretions land, so I'm not doing it that often.

But I'll do it for anyone who offers me money. Any 8-year-old boy would be pretty damn impressed.

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