Sunday, April 11, 2021

Banging my Head to Beat my Chest

Not having the ability to breathe independently presents a few challenges in life. Thankfully, God has provided tools to help take care of problems living in a fallen world. The item I talk about the most is my diaphragm pacemaker (DPS), but that's not the only item I use to keep my lungs in good shape.

Since I can't control my diaphragm, I can't cough on my own. I have learned how to manipulate my breathing to somewhat mimic a cough, but I still need help moving junk around in my lungs. Since the time of my injury, I have used a chest percussion treatment (CPT) twice, or more, every night. I have nicknamed the procedure my nightly thumping, or beating, and my nurses are happy to say it's time to beat Joel.

The CPT is simply a hand-held wand that vibrates and gets moved up and down my chest and back. Combined with turning from side-to-side, it helps keep any junk in my lungs lose and easier to suction out if needed. I can't feel it, but I'm told it feels good and I have woken up to nurses using it on sore shoulder or back muscles during the night.

For many years, the machine I used was called a Flimm Fighter. It worked well, but the cord between the machine's base and wand would break after years of getting wrapped up. After I gave my machine to be fixed once, it was replaced with a newer version that has all the mechanism in one piece, with a long power outlet to the wall.

The new version is smaller, but it's heavier for my nurses to hold and the wire between the wall and unit often resembles a pile of spaghetti. This is very prone to connections becoming lose and the machine not working. This has been the case for about the last six months with trading out my CPT with a loaner to get fixed. Mine gets returned, only for the problem to occur again a few weeks later. If it doesn't work, then the only option is to pound on my chest, and back, by hand. The cycle has become annoying and feels like I'm banging my head on a wall.

I started searching for an alternate solution, but few people use a CPT anymore and instead utilize a vest that does a similar treatment with air. However, it's not an option for me due to my DPS wires. In working with my new pulmonologist, he also doesn't know of any alternatives. Therefore, it looks like the cycle of equipment problems will continue. When I received my CPT back a few days ago after another round of maintenance, the solution offered was to hit the device on something and that should help it. When you're told to hit your medical equipment with a hammer to make it work, you know it has design flaws.

Such is the quad life sometimes. I'm thankful God has provided equipment that has helped more for 36 years. However, I think more frequently I should have pursued a career in engineering to help with medical devices. I will see if everything functions this week, but won't hold my breath (I can't anyway).


  1. Would a cough assist machine work instead since it's through your trach not vest

    1. I have tried a cough assist before, and they only make more problems. Also, I no longer have a regular trach that it could connect to. Thank you for the suggestion.