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VOCSN Helping to Inspire the Next Generation

November 9, 2021

There are so many important jobs in this world, many of which we do not even realize the importance of until we are directly affected by them.  Despite the fact that I intended to pursue a career in the medical field, prior to my spinal cord injury I do not think I ever considered the fact that there was such a thing as a respiratory therapist (RT), nor that they would become an integral part of my day-to-day life.  From whence do the men and women who fill this critical role come, as it is clearly not one of the top ten "when I grow up, I want to be a…" jobs?  Although I do not know what brought today's respiratory therapists to this career, I think VOCSN played an integral role in inspiring at least one future RT.

As my nurses become intimately integrated into my life and family, I have managed to develop relationships with many of their family members.  My little future respiratory therapist is my nurse Lindsey's four-year-old son Grady, and it seems that his journey begins with a video text message I sent to his mother.  Lindsey was working with me on a day when we were trialing a few different humidifiers, working through the various setting options, while cataloguing the pros and cons of each.  After she left, I sent her a video with the final choice in which I compared the newer heated circuits to older technology, which required the use of water traps and various adapters.  Young Grady saw the video and became obsessed with it.

In honor of National Respiratory Care Week, I take this opportunity to thank everyone who works to support those who need a little help with every breath they take!

After watching the video many times, Grady began to claim he was unwell and pointed to his neck saying, "It hurts here.  I need a breathing machine like Loa's."  Naturally, I was charmed by his fascination and would engage him in conversations about ventilators and humidification, in which he would incorporate every technical term related to ventilation that he had managed to adopt into his vocabulary.  Grady sent me his own video informing me he is going to make a breathing machine that has two humidifiers, one of which will be cold so I can drink the water.

When Grady's interest failed to wane, I sent him a piece of extra tubing I found lying around.  His six-year-old brother, Beau, helped him make a ventilator from an Amazon box.  By enlisting their mother's assistance with details of VOCSN, they even managed to include some of my own personal home screen settings. When the replica VOCSN was complete, Grady was instructed to hold the circuit up to his neck, while Beau took them on an adventurous make-believe car ride!

At the end of the day an Amazon box, a piece of ventilator tubing, combined with the interest and imagination of two little boys went beyond creative playtime by bringing a huge smile to my face.  Breathing, such an essential function critical to everyday life, is often taken for granted, until its intrinsic nature is threatened.  The gratitude I feel for everyone who works in respiratory care is immense, for without them I would not be sharing this story.  Grady's fascination with my ventilator has given me hope that the future of respiratory care is in good hands.

In honor of National Respiratory Care Week, I take this opportunity to thank everyone who works to support those who need a little help with every breath they take!

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