Guest Post from Ami Tricker
My Tracheostomy Enabled Me To Tell My Partner That I Love Him
"Before March 2018, I had never heard of a tracheostomy.
It all began at the beginning of March 2018, I was admitted to Critical Care at hospital due to being unconscious and not responding. I’ve been told that I was violently throwing my arms about or showed symptoms of a seizure – I still have no recollection of this.
An infection manifested itself which caused my body to shut down very quickly. To give my body a fighting chance, they put me in an induced coma for 4 days. After a week and a half of being in Critical Care, I was transferred to ICU at a different hospital, which is miles away from my home. They discovered I was battling with bilateral pneumonia.
For a short while, I had a breathing tube down my throat because I just did not have the strength to breathe by myself. Somehow, I started to show signs of improvement, but very tiny ones. They tried to remove the breathing tube on two occasions – the first time, they did remove it but I was still struggling to breathe on my own so they put it back in. The second time, my throat had some slight swelling and they didn’t want to cause more irritation so they waited until the swelling had gone down.
Over the next few days, while the swelling was going down, it was in discussion that a tracheostomy would be beneficial to me. When I first became aware of this, I was frightened and confused. I didn’t know what one was, but once I started to understand what the procedure entailed...I was absolutely petrified. The thought of having a hole in my throat and this small tube inserted...well, it’s safe to say I kept refusing the procedure. At the time, I was a very squeamish person and I just could not hack the thought of it.
But I wanted to get better, and having a tracheostomy would aid my recovery. I didn’t really have a choice but deep down I knew I had to have this. I just wanted to get better and go home.
On the day of the operation, I was very emotional. My fiancé and my best friend stood at either side of my bed, holding my hand. Nervous was the understatement of the century! They done their best to help me keep calm. The ICU physiotherapist came to see me before I was sedated. She was talking to me about superheroes and that’s the last I remember. I didn’t even know they had already administrated general anaesthetic!
I woke up a few hours later back in the ICU unit, again with my fiancé and best friend holding my hands. The first thing I noticed was that I could close my mouth. I no longer had this massive tube down my throat. I opened my mouth to speak but my fiancé told me to rest, so I didn’t speak but instead I tried to mouth what I wanted to say – I will admit I can't remember what it was that I wanted to say. I was still moderately sedated so I dread to think!
And so....my tracheostomy journey began.
I honestly could not tell there was anything there, all I felt was the band around my neck which kept the tracheostomy in place, when it was irritating my neck. That and when the ventilator kept disconnecting from the tube...that freaked me out the first few times! The most daunting of the whole experience was when they changed the tube and cleaned the area.
But I was comfortable and I could move my head a lot more. Communication was still really difficult and, as there is a risk with any operation, doctors were not sure if I would be able to talk properly.
I’m not sure if the experience is different for each person but because I was recovering from bilateral pneumonia, nurses had to help clear the horrible stuff out of my system. That wasn’t nice at all! I was sick a few times because of coughing so much.
I was introduced to a speaking valve – which does exactly as what it is called. It’s a bit wider than the standard tubes but doesn’t feel any different and it attaches the same way as the standard ones. As soon as the speaking valve was attached, I tried to speak but instead just made this noise, I ended up coughing so much that the nurses had to quickly change it back over to the one that was helping me to breathe.
Although the nurses said coughing was normal for the first few times, I felt disheartened. This was nearing on 3 weeks and that’s the longest time I’ve never been able to speak for! I convinced myself that I would never be able to speak properly again.
One afternoon, my fiancé came to visit me. The last time we had a conversation, well it was just arguing. We were going through a rocky patch before my hospital admission. I yearned to tell him that I love him.
The nurses came round to attach my speaking valve. I really tried to resist coughing but I knew I would feel worse if I did. Once attached, I did start coughing quite a bit but nowhere near as bad as the first time. There was a patch where my coughing eased so I seized the chance...
“Hello stranger...I love you"
I managed to say the words I’d been wanting to say for over 3 weeks. My voice was far from my “normal” voice but I was over the moon just to be able to speak to him. My fiancé cried and was really emotional because he was incredibly relieved to finally hear my voice.
A week later, I was transferred back to the first hospital I was admitted to as I was recovering well. The next day, I was able to have my tracheostomy removed – I thought this involved another operation, I didn’t know it just entailed removing the tube and that was it! The doctor examined the area and once he was happy, he placed a patch over the area where the tracheostomy was, to let it start healing.
I thought I would be really conscious of the scar and that I would want to hide it...but I don't. I’m proud of it! It aided my recovery, it let me breathe, it enabled me to tell my fiancé I loved him and my family. I’m not ashamed of my tracheostomy scar!
Thank you tracheostomy, I will forever be grateful for my time with you "
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