The Honest Truth -

From a two-time ventilator survivor 


I have tried to approach my spinal cord injury as a place to share in hopes of helping someone else. Often, I have found purpose in this approach. The challenge is to share from the standpoint of authenticity, even when the truth is unpleasant. Will there always be a 'silver lining'? For an optimist, yes. For a realist, maybe. For a pessimist, no. Within this context, I proceed in sharing my ventilator experience. 

I am a two-time ventilator survivor. Trust me when I say, this is not a 'title' I choose nor want. The first occurrence was in 1979 when I was four years old, from the onset of paralysis. The second, as a 36-year-old mother of two, after hemorrhaging. Both times the ventilator saved my life.

The ventilator was my breath, on both occasions, for about four weeks each time. With this lifesaving machine a cascade of problems can develop. These issues rarely are discussed. Once again, if I don't share, in the totality of truth, why share at all.

Do you like to eat? I do but forget this while on the vent. During ventilation nutrition is delivered by either feeding tube or PICC- a catheter that is inserted through a peripheral vein, used when intravenous treatment is required over a long period. In my case, this caused diabetes.

Do you hate shots? I despise shots. While on ventilation, I received blood thinners as an effort in decreasing blood clots due to my lack of movement.

Do you like the natural flow of air through your nose? Well, there is nothing natural about mechanical breathing. During my tenure on ventilation, I missed the natural feeling of inhaling through your nose.

Do you like your privacy? When I became a ventilator patient every part of my privacy was lost. For obvious reasons.

And what about the mental war when one is left speechless, breathless, helpless? The thoughts linger with no ability for resolve. I begged, I bargained and asked my Creator to save my soul.

The ventilator saves lives but it is the last place anyone wants to be. If my experience can help anyone it is worth sharing. My goal is not to produce fear- but to give insight. Loved ones can witness their friends and family on ventilators. I know my husband had unanswered questions during this time. When I openly discussed my experience, it was part of the healing process for both of us. This compels me to share.

Is there a 'silver lining'? Call me an optimist or realist, take your pick. I am alive and that's good enough for me.


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