Throat Blog — Stopped Drowning


I mentioned in another post that I could barely use the humidification compressor that was set up at my house before I came home from the hospital. It would just make me constantly cough and gurgle. So, I mostly abandoned it and was trying to get by with having a moist bandana over the stoma much of the time, and breathing through my nose as much as I could.

Well, turns out that wasn't working too well. Around Friday I started coughing up big chunks of dried mucus; big enough that I'm surprised one did not block the stoma (I could easily have cleared it if that happened, but it was still not pleasant). I started looking this up and found that it is a symptom of …not enough humidification. Add to that, I also saw some minor pink streaks on the inner cannula when I took it out to clean it. Not enough blood to trigger another ER visit, but not something you want to get any worse.

So, I turned back to the humidification compressor to see if I could make some adjustment that would make it usable. It was supposedly set up and ready to go when I got home, so I had not tried to do anything with it. It came with no instruction book, so I was hesitant to turn a knob or anything since I didn't have any reference as to what the knob did.

Googling the compressor model was frustrating. I found out that the knob adjusted the overall pressure (should be set to 50 psi, and that seems to be what mine was set to). But there were no instructions for the humidification "cup" attached to the compressor output. The only instruction I'd received, relayed from my sister who was here when it was set up, was that the water in the cup should not be filled past the bottom line (about 2" from the bottom of the cup).

Finally, after more creative search phrases I found that there was an adjustment on the cap of the cup that controls the amount of moisture being put out. It should be set to 100% (which, counterintuitively, sets it for the least amount of moisture). Upon examination, I found that the adjustment was set to 0%, which I'm calling the "drown the patient" setting. I cranked the adjustment around to 100% and gave it another try. I was able to tolerate the humidity (there was some coughing as the tight/dry mucus loosened up, but nothing like what had been happening before.

It was bed time, so I filled the cup to the line and went to bed with the compressor on. About 3 hours later, I had to get up and refill the cup. Another 3 hours…fill again. It really seemed incredible to me that it was designed to not allow one to get a full nights sleep…heck, 3 hours barely counts as a decent nap for me, lately.

The cup itself is a frosted plastic cup that screws onto a cap connected to the compressor. Hoses and the moisture setting adjustment are all on the cap. When doing one of my multiple refills on Saturday, I noticed that there were more markings on the cup than just that line (the marking, and even the line, are very difficult to see and easy to miss if you aren't really looking for them).

I twisted and turned the cup in the light until I was able to read all the markings. The bottom line I had been filling to was marked "MINIMUM." About 2" from the top of the cup is another line. It is labeled "MAXIMUM." So, based on the only instructions I'd received for the use of the humidifier, I had only been putting in water to the point where I was actually supposed to be refilling the cup. Last night I properly filled the cup to the MAXIMUM line and it ran all night with no need of a refill.

Breathing much better today with less coughing and no chunks. I can't say I got a good night's sleep (the compressor is loud, the humidification drips cold water down my chest occasionally, and I do need to rouse to suction if I cough). Nothing a 3-hour nap won't fix, though.

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