My Miracle in a Box – Diaphragmatic Pacemaker
I am a C1 complete. That means that I have broken the top vertebrae in the cervical section of my spine. What does that mean? Practically that means that I have zero movement or sensation below the neck. It means that I will likely not regain any movement below the neck outside of some new scientific development. It also means that I should spend the rest of my, most likely shortened, life on a ventilator. I don’t. How? An amazing little machine called a diaphragmatic pacemaker or DPS for short.
A ventilator forces air down into the lungs. It’s artificial and, quite frankly, dangerous. The ventilator connection can easily pop off your trach. A pop-off for me would equal death. Many other quadriplegics have died that exact way. The diaphragmatic pacemaker is different, instead of forcing air down Into the lungs it stimulates the diaphragm and allows me to breathe ” normally”. As it’s doing this it actually strengthens the diaphragm, making those muscles stronger instead of allowing them to atrophy.
Practically this increases my quality of life dramatically. If I was on the ventilator I would not be able to talk, eat or drink. On top of constantly being afraid of a pop-off and limiting my time away from the house.
I call it my miracle in a box, but it truly was a miracle how fast I took to it. Most patients have to wean off the ventilator incredibly slowly, a year if not more to be solely on the DPS. It was described to me as running a marathon, constantly. I was able to fully wean off the ventilator in a matter of weeks. Now this wasn’t because I was so strong or healthy, I wasn’t. I truly believe that it was a miracle from God. Neither I nor any respiratory therapist had any other probable alternatives.