Sunday, August 23, 2020

Printing a Button

For 30 years, I used a tracheostomy (trach) to connect to my ventilator and help access my lungs to clear them out. However, I had to use a special size that required some work when I ordered new ones. Eventually though, it always worked out and I got what I needed. In 2015, I switched to a trach button and looked forward to easier replacement parts. Unfortunately, that didn't last very long.

Just like my trach, the button has two pieces. An outer sleeve that always stays in my throat and a button, or vent adapter, that slips into it. The button completely seals off the hole in my throat so I breathe through my nose and mouth. It can get dirty at times, so I change the button once a week. I had a set of three, so I could have one in use and two for cleaning and backup.


Somehow, one of the three went missing at some point. I'm guessing it was during one of my camp trips that it may have been left behind, but it was never found. I wasn't comfortable with having just one extra, and went to order another one. In that process, my equipment company learned the button I use was no longer available, and hadn't been for about a year. That was over a year ago, and I have been searching for a solution ever since.

The button is nothing other than a block of plastic molded in the proper shape. I wondered if a 3D printer could be a solution, but wasn't sure where to look. I brought up the problem with my ENT last month and he knew someone that had made printed solutions for him before. Over the next few days, I released my one spare plug to a nurse I had barely met for her college age sons to measure and print. It was quickly returned to me, and I waited for the results.

After several email exchanges, the final product was in my position. Three new blue plugs to test with my external sleeve. This week, my nurse and I tried the new buttons in my spare outer sleeves. Two of them fit well, but one didn't. The printer couldn't quite get them smooth, but they look like they should work. As of this writing though, I haven't tried them in my neck. That may come as a future update when I feel adventurous.

I'm thankful for God's provisions throughout the life He has given me. Living the quad life has its challenges, but at least it means few days are boring.

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