Life with a Tracheotomy

When I was first diagnosed with cancer in my neck, my ENT doctor was adamant about putting in a tracheotomy as soon as possible.  I, unfortunately, did not enjoy his same enthusiasm.  I had an appointment with the radiologist a few days later and he too was wanting me to go under soon but to put in the port for the chemo as well as a feeding tube.  Again, I did not share his enthusiasm either.  But during this visit, he had to look at my neck again by using a camera that goes down your nose.

Now, if you have a deviated septum in your nose, you are going to have a bad time getting any type of tubes down regardless the size.  Yours truly has a deviated septum.  But he managed to get it thru so he can check on my neck.  He had it hooked up to the TV screen so both me and Maria can take a look at the same time.  It was during this time that I saw that the mass growing in my neck was obstructing everything.  I agreed to going to the hospital the next week to get all the procedures done in time for chemo and radiation treatment.

Now, getting the Trach is not one of the most enjoyable experiences I have ever felt.  Because the mass is growing in my neck, it is already blocking my airway.  In order to get the Trach in place they had to put a tube down my neck.  The doctors made me feel comfortable at first because they said, “once the tube is in, we are going to knock you out with general anesthesia.”  So I was like, cool it shouldn’t be an issue.  I was wrong.  When they get me in the operating room and got everything ready, they relaxed me and then placed the tube down my mouth thru my throat.  As soon as it entered my throat area, it seemed as if the mass wrapped itself around the tube thus disabling any means of breathing.

For the first time in my life, I was scared beyond scared.  Here I was helpless, unable to breathe or communicate and the doctors telling me to relax.  My eyes were saying, “please knock me out!”  but I don’t think they received that message.  They were busy getting everything in place and they did quickly.  I remembered that there was nothing much I could do, I was in the best hospital, had a great team of doctors and my life was in their hands.  It was at this realization that I relaxed a bit and then I was knocked out.

Now I wouldn’t want my worst enemy to live with a trach.  This is most bothersome in my neck.  My body knows there is a foreign substance and therefor increases my mucus production to expel it.  So imagine, clearing your throat like every 30 minutes to an hour.  Imagine trying to sleep and coughing up mucus all night long.  What is worse, and trust me there is, I have a few options with my trach.  The first, I can put a red plug in which pretty much locks any airway going in or out.  This enables me to talk with no issue.  The second, I can put in an extension that allows me to put in a purple valve that allows me to talk.  However, with a strong cough, I can displace it and now I am heaving thru this hole in my throat.  This leaves my third option, leaving the tube open.

I only leave the tube open when I sleep.  Because all the air is now going in thru my neck, I don’t snore nor do I need to sleep with my CPAP.  So that is a plus.  However, that mucus build up over the night gets me when I wake up as I am forcing air out of my trach trying to clear my throat.  When that doesn’t work, I get a napkin and cover the trach to block part of the airway and this enables some of the mucus to come out as well.

Finally, there is the cleaning.  I have to clean out my trach at least twice a day.  I have a suction machine in case there is any mucus in the trach tube and if I go too far down I end up gagging myself.  That is no fun either.  I have a gauze bandage around the tube that gets filled up with mucus, don’t ask me how, but I exchange that out when I clean my trach.

But I wouldn’t exchange this for a second.  The other option was to wake up one night unable to breathe and getting rushed to the hospital to get an emergency Trach done.  I would rather live with this device and learn about it now versus later.  I would rather cough up mucus, which is clear by the way and that is a good sign, every 30 minutes that I am awake.  I would rather have this in place now, knowing that when it is all said and done, it is removed from my body when I am cancer free and I never have to use a trach again.

Author: danielgarcia3

Retired Military Officer who is now fighting the good fight against Cancer

4 thoughts on “Life with a Tracheotomy”

  1. Prayers heading you way old friend. Looking forward to reading more of your personal journey thru this toughest part of your life.

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  2. Thank you for sharing your story. I wish I had shared mine. I know your story all too well. I went through the same cancer. I am here too say that you, too, will have VICTORY. Praying for you. God Bless You

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