Laryngectomees & Breathing
Although it is said that you could put 1,000 larys in a room together yet every one would be different (and I truly believe this would be the case) there is one problem which affects all larys –
The new airway created during surgery
No great surprise there then as the normal passage of air has been shut down (nasal & oral) and the new airway opened up in the throat, via a marvellous bit of surgery & needlework by your surgeon. It is very easy to say, “well, at least I can breathe properly” but in actual fact you can’t and that is because the bodies natural filters (nasal passages etc) no longer deal with the inflow of air and therefore the lungs are suddenly exposed to all sorts of pollution that currently sits in our supposed ‘clean air‘ that we breathe. Note here that the World Health Organisation have categorically stated that our ‘clean air‘ & cooking vapours/emissions are now leading causes of cancer (various types of).
As many of you know, once leaving hospital with your new breathing system firmly in place and all the protective information to hand, it is a big frightening world out there as you have very little protection against chest infections which are easily caused by rapid temperature changes, damp atmospheres, hot dry atmospheres etc etc.
It takes time to adjust to your new way of life. Some larys need constant nebuliser applications, using a variety of Saline, Salbutamol & Budesonide solutions to keep the airway moistened & open and some larys need a semi-permanent lary tube inserted in the airway to keep the airway open and to continue to breathe.
Don’t worry, not all airways decide to contract for as I said at the beginning-everyone is different. What you have to remember is that all this surgery is one hell of a shock to the system and therefore, there are bound to be reactions as your body attempts to regain control of its severely altered functions. The lary tube is made to accept a stoma button in the end of it so that the air you inhale is filtered properly and you will find that your speech/respiratory nurse will advise which type to go for. (Countrywide Supplies provide a tremendous range of equipment needed by larys-and deliver to your door!)
This brings us onto breathing-your very lifes blood (no pun intended of course).
Take a breath dear reader….. now hold it for 50 seconds….. struggling already as you read this?….. I’m not surprised in the slightest – breathe out and regain your composure please. As larys we have to be able to control our breathing at all times-and believe me, sometimes this is not an easy task.
Your ENT/Speechg Therapist/Respiratory team will educate you in all matters breathing, and yes, they are all highly trained, highly skilled and extremely caring but once you have been shown how to control your breathing you quickly find ‘your own method‘ (from all you have learned) of control. A combination of short breaths, long breaths, quick/slow breaths, it doesn’t matter; it is literally what helps YOU to calm down and control YOUR breathing.
Never forget that while you are puffing & panting like an old steam train your heart is working overtime to pump the oxygen around your heaving body-not good. No matter where you are, no matter what you are doing (especially COPD/Emphysema sufferers) you need to get your breathing under control.
[Note here that I have found my own way. I don’t care where I am or if people look at me ‘gone out’, I know that I need to control my breathing-so I go through my silent routine.]
Being a lary you will find that a chest infection is your worst nightmare, your enemy to wellness. It causes you untold fatigue, a copious amount of secretions, discomfort with ‘wheeze’/crackling in the lungs, feeling lifeless, off your food etc. You will no doubt be on strong anti-biotics and a steroid (probably Prednisolone) to fight off the infection. Do NOT venture out into the cold, clammy air, stay indoors, relax as best you can and let the medicinals do their job. Remember also that having a lary tube in place enhances the difficulty of ridding the airway of phlegm (which quite often congeals somewhat to form ‘plugs’). Keep a suction machine permanently plugged in and literally suck out the unwanted secretions asap. Again, this will avoid stressing your heart. I would also advocate that you ‘up your dosage’ of nebuliser usage too as you need to keep the airway clear & moistened.
When you are indoors, try not to do too much, try and relax as much as possible, for this takes an enormous strain off the body as it fights the infection. Listening to soft music is a great relaxant and there are plenty of relaxation tapes/discs/CD’s about that literally lull you into a semi stupor-and that is exactly what they are supposed to do. Does it matter if the washing up doesn’t get done for another hour? Have you got the energy to hoover round? Did you really need to start polishing? I don’t think so-so be told. Relax, chill out, put some nice relaxing music on and simply chill out!
In building our support system we contact many company’s dealing with various goods that will help larys and the enjoyment of life and on the music front we have found that “the bebop shop” (an excellent online music service) is in a class of its own as far as selection, despatch & service are concerned. We have formed an association with this online company and recommend that you search their vast listings to find the music that you know relaxes you.
No matter what your taste in music, simply e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Relaxation is half the battle when disposing of chest infections/colds/stress etc and believe me, there is nothing better that relaxing comfortably and listening to the sounds of your choice, whether it be classical music, Motown, 60’s pop music, dolphins & the sea, heavy rock, jazz, basically whatever ‘floats your boat’. The bebopshop & the knightonmusicgroup are the same group-only the music genres have been separated for ease of searching etc. ( www.knightonmusicgroup.co.uk )
Remember, the sooner you get your breathing under control the sooner your heart returns to its normal rhythm, the calmer you will feel and the quicker you will fight off any infections-give it a try!
To breathe or not to breathe, that is the question?
I’ll go for the first option thanks!!!
You really do need to click this link folks…
Dr. Itzhak Brook’s presentation for health care providers and neck breathers