Friday, November 12, 2010

Beginning a 12-step program...

"Hi, my name is Sherri Schloss and I have CF."

I know you probably wouldn't expect it of me, but I've been told by my doctor that I needed a new way of doing things and a 12 step program should do the trick. I went to National Jewish to give it a trial run and even the respiratory techs thought I would benefit greatly. So I made the plunge and signed on the dotted line thus committing myself to the program.

Yes, no more early 1990's technology for me. Out with the old ThAIRapy Vest and in with the newest hi-tech gizmo for airway clearance, the inCourage system. Woot woot!

My new wear-me-for-an-hour-everyday friend has a built-in 12 step program that delivers pulsating pressure at varying velocities. It has a completely different feel to it and hopefully it will be more effective in airway clearance. I need something to make a difference.

I've never been particularly good with a airway clearance. My mom would do postural drainage (layman definition: getting beaten on your sides and back while laying down on a slant board with blood rushing to your head) when I was sick for sure, but not on a daily basis. It didn't make my cough more productive so it seemed to be a huge waste of time. My mom thought running around doing "kid stuff" was more helpful in the long run--bless her, she was right on.

Then when I was in college, I ran around like a crazy student and still didn't do chest therapy unless I caught a cold. I taught my roommates how to beat on me with cupped hands on a slanted ironing board we wedged under the couch cushions. Can you say uncomfortable? Evie, my main roomie-beater, was such a good sport about helping me out.

Then I got married to a wonderful guy, Rheid, who happened to be a drummer! Match made in chest therapy heaven, right? Yeah, he was great at it but therapy didn't allow much creativity in the rhythm department so he found it terribly boring. Who wouldn't, really. But he persevered and beat his wife on a semi-regular basis until the vest came along.

I thought the vest at first was my ticket to chest therapy nirvana and I used it with gusto, that is, until I couldn't tell it was doing anything but rattling me senseless. I really wanted it to be effective but whether I used it or not, it didn't seem to make much difference. So my compliance dwindled over the years. (I did check the counter hidden on the bottom of the device today and it calculates I've managed to log on over 1,240 hours of vest time over the 15 minute increments, incredible!)

On a fun side note, my vest came when Josh was in the third grade. When his friends came over, Josh would tell them about his Mom's new "spacesuit thing." Everyone wanted to try it on. I remember all the giggles and laughter coming from my room as the little boys would turn it up to the max to hear themselves talk and sing with a crazy vibrato. They loved it. I even used to do a Pinocchio impression saying, "Father? Father?" and sounding like I was underwater looking for Geppetto. Good times. However, I will not miss hoses flying off when I cough hard or having to keep pressure on the activation pad because if you eased up at all, the timer would start from the beginning again--argh! I also think I've passed up the "if you die, we want this machine back" clause since this original company is now out of business and the machine is completely outdated as well. Way to outlast the vest Sherri!

But now airway clearance is serious business and I need something that really works. My x-rays show lots more congestion and "plugging" so I need to get that mucus moving. My best treatments were when Rheid did them, but he has been out of commission for the past 2-3 years with shoulder problems and surgeries. Flutter valves don't work either and pep masks give me a gnarly headache but not much else. My doctor mentioned this new system that her women patients particularly like since it is much more comfortable up front in the chest area. My worst area is also in the front right, so having better access there is potentially beneficial for me.

I've had my inCourage for four days now and I've put 4.5+ hours on it already. I managed to catch a bad cold last week so I am coughing more during my treatments-- so not sure if inCourage can take all the credit for increased coughing and mucus movement (sorry, but CF is all about mucus after all) but I am enCouraged!

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