Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Need suction

Almost died last night. You bloggy friends need to accept that I someday might.

We went to the ALS clinic yesterday and my weight and breathing scores were down, except one, which was up by 10 points.

Because we were in a hurry, I drank a 500 mL smoothie in lieu of my usual breakfast. While at the clinic, I drank several Ensures, then papaya juice and more smoothie for dinner at home. Papaya juice thins secretions. Thick saliva is a problem for me.

Note that I had no water all day. None.

So at bedtime I brushed my teeth. This often inspires a wad of thick saliva in the back of my mouth, threatening to close the airways. It's been scary sometimes, but in the past I have been able to breathe in through my nostrils while working over several minutes (15?) to get the goop out of my mouth.

Last night, however, the goo was thicker. Imagine a really thick, oozing craft glue like comes, or came, in the metal can with the brush-in-lid combination.


I called my adept wife. This might be an emergency and I might need help. She came into the bathroom and watched me almost die. I was sucking, rattling, trembling as I stood over the sink with my wheelchair behind me.

I could not get air! Tiny bits, yes, but every time I tried to get enough, the glue flap would close.

She offered to call 911. I shook my head.

I have supreme confidence in myself, and because of the conditions in which I grew up, I am the type of person who wants to deal with problems without distractions from people who want to help. So it must have been hard for her that whenever she tried to comfort me by stroking my back, I would knock her hand away with my elbow. My thinking was: I need to focus every single brain cell I have on trying to get air! Your hand distracts me! I'm sorry, Honey.

She thought to offer me a length of toilet paper. I still was not getting air, but the toilet paper absorbed some goo from my tongue. This act on her part probably saved my life. I recognized that wiping goo out with toilet paper was a good strategy, and motioned for more, but I was still not getting air. I shoved the toilet paper into my mouth, hoping to swab up more. She said she would call 911 and ran to the phone. When she came back I was still croaking and rattling and getting nothing. She talked to the 911 people.

I tell you, I don't mind a firing squad, decapitation, electrocution, lethal injection, or explosion. Those are easy ways to die. Sign me up. As long as it means I don't have to asphyxiate.

Asphyxiation is terror. Torture. Waterboarding, anyone? If I were in a car wreck and my mangled, shredded body seared me with pain while it took me 20 minutes to die, that would be mighty bad. But I prefer that to, for example, choking to death on my own spit. Air needs are extremely primal for most animals. Freedom from pain takes a distant second.

My heroic wife went to open the front door, because we briefly heard sirens.

Each time she left the bathroom I had an urge to follow her. I still felt that I was going to die, and if so, I wanted to die in her arms. I did not think of my kids. I did not think of my friends, but only this one woman who I love.

I sat down on the wheelchair and rested my forehead on the edge of the sink. My nostrils drew in a partial breath -- clear and clean! The glue flap closed and there was more choking, but I kept trying to channel that miracle again.

I started happening more and more often. I was starting to breath again!


By the time the paramedics arrived, I was leaning over one arm of my chair, mouth open, trying to drool out more saliva, entire body trembling with spasticity -- yet able to breathe!

The kids stayed asleep.

There were goo balls and goo struggles, but it was clearing! I signed the form saying I had declined hospital care, and the nice men left, after taking my vitals. I drank half a glass of warm water and breathed clearly all night. My intrepid wife is buying a suction device like dentists use.

Lesson to youse wid de ALS: Get a suction device! And always, ALWAYS drink some clear water every day.

Oh by the way, I have decided to have a feeding tube installed through my abdomen into my stomach.
Weblog Commenting and Trackback by