My ventilator is the most important thing in my life. It is what's keeping me breathing; keeping me alive. I have been getting a lot of questions about my vent, so I thought I would share with you the inner workings of my ventilator and how it feels to be on one.
I have two separate vents, one at bedside and one on my wheelchair. This makes it a lot easier to get around. When I get up into my wheelchair in the morning, all I have to do is switch to my wheelchair vent and off I go. The two ventilators are fairly similar except that my bedside vent has more features and is a higher model. Therefore, they are a little bit different from each other. That is why they have different colored tubing.
Next, I will talk about the vent itself and how it works. The first picture above is of the whole contraption. The second picture is of the actual machine. It is basically like a computer. It remembers everything that ever happens, including time and dates of alarms. The vent works fairly smoothly. The machine itself pulls air into the side of the vent and then forces the air through the tubing, into my lungs. That is one full inhale breath. Some of the air exhales out of the PEEP (or exhalation) valve on the tubing and the rest exhales either out of my nose or mouth, depending on if I'm talking or not. I receive 18 breaths per minute and the amount of air I receive per breath is 700 mL. This is called the title volume.
Attached to my vent and tubing is a humidifier chamber. The third picture above is of the humidifier. The chamber has to be plugged in to work and when it is turned on, a part of it heats up to a desired temperature. It then heats the air being pulled in from the ventilator going into my lungs. There is a bag of water attached to the humidifier to moisten the air as well (the fourth picture is of the water hanging up). If the humidifier is not plugged in, the air is fairly cold. There is a humidity sponge attached to my wheelchair tubing that moistens the air when the humidifier is not plugged in. It gets taken out when the heat is turned on. If there is no humidity going into the tubing and no humidity sponge, the air is very cold on my lungs. It feels like when you go outside in extremely cold weather and take a deep breath and feel that icey pain in your lungs.
The vent will alarm in many different occasions, especially if something is wrong. If the tubes pop off anywhere along the vent, it will sense the leak and alarm. It will display "Low Pressure" on the screen of the vent. The ventilator is hooked up to a battery that lasts about 3 to 4 hours. When the battery drains out, the vent will alarm and display "Low Power", letting you know that you need to change the battery. The internal battery on the ventilator only lasts about 45 minutes to an hour.
At first, it was hard to adjust to being on the vent. I had to learn to breathe and talk differently. Now it feels as normal as breathing regularly. I am able to do something called neck breathing for about five minutes when the tubing is taken off. This allows me to change my shirt and switch ventilators more efficiently without having to hurry. If anyone has any other questions that I have not answered in this post, let me know either by e-mail or posting a comment and I will try to answer them.