I am so good at clearing my son’s airway that I am like Sam-I-Am in Green Eggs and Ham. I can suction on a train. I can suction in the rain. I can suction at the zoo. I can suction, why can’t you?
When Lucas was a baby and got the trach, I could not have imagined this kind of ease. But after eleven years I can now suction with one hand to keep my son breathing while repositioning his iPad with my other. I can suction saliva to clear his mouth while talking on the phone to schedule more appointments. While silencing a ventilator alarm. I can suction a tracheostomy to the right depth in the dark of night with the lights out so he can stay asleep.
We learned to pass a plastic tube thinner than spaghetti into his mouth or down his trach to clear his airway, first with a quiet, hospital-grade suction machine, then with home equipment with an engine as loud as a blender. We learned not only how to clear his airway—or resuscitate him if we didn’t clear it in time—but how to do this in public, like we were applying a bandaid. When clearing his throat, we ignored the stares at farmer’s markets, at the library, at doctors’ offices— pushing open his lungs, waiting for the color to return to his face. Every day we kept our baby breathing.
My father had dementia and I was his caregiver. Here’s what I wish I had known
In 2007, I was suddenly plunged into the role of caregiver for my then 75-year-old father, who had vascular dementia. His short-term memory was...