Thursday, 8 January 2015

Tracheostomy Tales

Some dogs have a natural ability to be still.
This phenomenon is common in Welsh terriers who often will sit and watch when confronted with a new experience.
Our first Welsh terrier was called Finlay, and in Sheffield I often took him into my Spinal Injury ward  to " visit" with certain patients that were in particular need of some physical contact with something affectionate and warm blooded.
With a whole succession of patients he would allow himself to be lifted up onto the bed and with an innate understanding that he needed to be quiet and still, he would lie in a crook of an arm, or with his head on a sheet draped chest and would lift the spirits of the most vulnerable of patients.
This morning I remembered one such patient I shall call Brenda . Now Brenda was a physical scrap of a woman who had suffered a catastrophic paralysis after a long illness. She arrived on our unit chronically anxious, permanently ventilated, depressed and physically clapped out and through a great deal of hard work from a pragmatic irish staff nurse called Helen , her general condition started to improve.
Finlay visited her several times.
Every time he would sit on Brenda's  bed, then throw himself backwards to lie like a baby with his head on her shoulder. And there he would stay until it was time to go home.
His presence had the effect of an intravenous injection of 10mg of Valium
Nursing, a decade ago, seemed to be somewhat freer and less governed by health and safety issues than it is today, and Finlay's last visit to Brenda was a case in point.
I placed Finaly in bed with Brenda and busied myself with other jobs around her room and on the nursing station which was a few feet away.
After around 20 minutes or so , I was chatting to Helen the Irish nurse when I saw her looking quizzically at Brenda ,
" what the feck has that dog got in his mouth?" She said
I looked at Finlay and suddenly for a second I thought my dog was smoking a cigarette
We both rushed over to a smiling but very wide eyed Brenda
to find Finlay had gently pulled out the inner tube of her tracheostomy and was sucking on it like a lollipop.

Finlay in typical reclining pose

73 comments:

  1. finlay was one gorgeous pup!

    dogs are wonderful therapy, i'm so glad you got to take him to wrk with you sometimes

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    1. He was a very dog. It broke my heart when he died

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  2. Oh bless Finlay. Dogs are the greatest comfort and my 2 are a constant source of feel good therapy. I once smuggled my Mum's tiny yorkie into the hospital to see her when she was feeling down. It made a world of difference

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    1. We once had a patient's mother who brought a horse in a horse box to visit

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  3. My experience here is that every patient in hospital is begging for physical contact with something affectionate and warm blooded! Compare that with my experience of the NHS and you'll understand why I cannot sing my praise for the NHS loud enough.

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    1. How IS the thigh thomas?

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  4. "Dr Finlay's Casebook"? ...A bit before your time John. Nowadays, if you brought William to your ICU you'd probably be struck off.

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    1. I would have to shave him and dip what's left into bleach before I did yp

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    2. Or you could have a little four legged ebola suit made specially for him.

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  5. I love a good dogs tale x

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  6. My mother spent several months in a skilled nursing facility a couple of years ago, they had visiting "therapy" dogs that visited nearly every afternoon. Very controlled, but very good for all.

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    1. I am a strong advocate for the therapy of animals in long term care....especially for depressed patients

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  7. A wonderful story ... but I'm glad you noticed what he had done while 'Brenda' was still smiling!!

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    1. Was was I ......I would hated making an appearance at the coroners inquest

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  8. Dogs, and cats, should be supplied by the NHS.

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  9. My late brother found a great deal of comfort from a golden retriever that made regular visits to his nursing home -- she really lifted his spirits and for a few minutes seemed his old self again.

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    1. A nice memory at this unhappy time eh? X

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  10. The best medicine for me ? My animals....right up there with my grandkids. I am happiest with my furry brood.

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  11. They won't even let people sit on beds in our hospital. We all need a cuddle when we are in hospital, from man or beast.

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    1. It was my ward...so I got away with it

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  12. Animals seem to work magic don't they?

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    1. They do...........generally x

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  13. What about Winnie? she can also do a wonderful terapy for people.

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    1. She would be too clumsy....she doesn't know her own strength

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  14. What a wonderful story, John!
    When I take my dog,Sophie, to see my father at the veteran's hospital i am always pleased by the smiles she gets from other patients as she sees them and goes up to them for a pat on the head.......maybe the first time they have smiled all day.
    Animals ought to be part of the physio/pysch therapy offered at every hospital facility.

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    1. They access emotions that therapy can't
      Jimbo

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  15. Thank you for sharing that memory John.

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  16. I used to take all sorts of animals into the Psychiatric hospital I worked at in the late 70s early 80s I don't suppose they would be so keen now, though they were often a way into some closed worlds.
    I confess that the thought of Finlay sucking on the trachy made me goster!

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    1. I would have been struck off if reported nine I guess

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  17. Pets have a magical effect on those who are sick, especially with such devastating debility. I always thought the pets were a reminder of home and normalcy. That, plus the fact that every great pet had a perpetual look of "Wow...I'm glad I'm with you."

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    1. And touching an animal allows for the getting rid of emotion......

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  18. I wonder if there was an innocent explanation for the lollipop? Our older cairn carried the last angel decoration around in his mouth for an hour before we got home to save it from being destroyed (like the rest of the half dozen) by the "bad" new puppy. He spit it at our feet, and his expression said he wished he could have saved more than one.

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    1. Oh I know what happened
      Finlay was like william,......he was dreadfully polite
      When prey think you are offering them something, they will take the gift gently and politely and will hold it for a while
      I suspect Finlay thought Brenda was offering him the tracheostomy tube

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  19. Animals and poorly patients are a match made in heaven …… and Finlay was gorgeous ….. he looked just like a teddy bear and must have been just as comforting. It sounds as if he knew just what to do and, probably got as much out of it as the patients.What a precious pup Finlay was John. XXXX

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    1. Finlay was a trouper , he never left my side for 5 years

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  20. What a precious story. It sounds like Finlay was a gem of a doggie.

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    1. He was........you may know that if you read back in the archive
      He died in 2007

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  21. That was a nice story. :-)

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  22. What a lovely story, What a cute photo. I did some fundraising for the Pets as Therapy charity after reading about them in the local paper a few years ago. Wonderful charity
    Twiggy

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  23. To which I can only say OMG! Finlay was a doll. And so sweet.

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  24. Dogs do just know...whenever I have a migraine, our Turbo just sits pressed up against me all day and doesn't even pester for a walk (as usual). It's such a shame there aren't more enlightened people like you with a say over in dogs in hospitals, and especially patients own animals.

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    1. Funny how they know.........I always think that the stories of how dogs seek out and lick skin cancers in people should be explored properly............the strength of the senses must be phenomenonal

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  25. This past summer I spent quite a number of hours sleeping on the couch in a semi-upright position after surgery for a retinal tear. One of our cats used to lie on my outstretched legs for as long as I would sleep. This is the cat that used to belong to my daughter and would do the same with her when she wasn't feeling well (which was often, as she has a chronic illness). Even though I still take naps from time to time, he never sleeps on my legs now. Strange how some animals are more sensitive to people's needs.

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  26. P. S. The photo of Finlay makes me smile just to look at him - he just looks delighted with life in that shot.

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  27. I facilitated a similar scenario in ITU once in the early 90's. Had to wait for the weekend so the Head of the ITU was not there. I got them to bath the dog, dry him, and then he was brought to visit on a Sunday afternoon. That day my patient turned the corner and started to wean from the ventilator they had been dependent on for weeks. Well done John. A nurse who thinks outside the box.

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    1. You are MY kinda nurse bev xxxx

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  28. A magical moment by a magical dog. Precious.

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  29. O M G - now I know exactly why I could never have been a nurse.
    But I do agree about the terrier's ability to sit or lie still - Borders do it too.
    Are you tired today after your mammoth day in London?

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    1. A bit jaded pat
      I'm not used to all the excitement

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  30. When I had to spend 6 months in the hospital & rehab. center after a spinal cord injury, I reached a point where I was telling the nurses that I was going to unbolt my halo screws & go home. Without saying a word one nurse went out & called my Mom to discuss how to keep me from following through on my threat. Within a half hour my Mom appeared with my cat in tow. The bribe worked & my anxiety went away & I calmed down after a half hour visit. It was my one & only time I lost it and the bribe of regular visits with the cat prevented any further drama. If not for being able to see & hold my cat, I might have been a quadriplegic. Most all of the hospitals in our city have very active pet therapy programs & will allow pet visits from home on an individual basis with their doctor's OK. A cuddle with a dog like your Finley is better than any medicine in the world when your hospitalized & feel like you have no control over anything happening to you.

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    1. Did you have a halo brace on Ellen or skull traction?
      Just interested...I miss my spinal days

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    2. Initially I was put in a Wells-Gardener head tongs so I could lie prone for about a month while the neurosurgeon waited for the most of the swelling around my spinal cord to decrease as the steroids worked their magic, At about week 3, the pins became infected and that traction torture device had to be removed. It was decided that more IV antibiotics would be added since they could not wait for the infection caused by the skull traction pins to clear before bolting the halo into a different spot on my head. Luckily, the infection cleared up quickly and the halo & traction continued until week 5 when my MRI showed enough improvement to make surgery feasible, All 5 cervical discs were removed & fused and Orion plates screwed into eacg level to make sure there was no movement during the healing process, Donor bone & bone graphs molded from my own hip bone was used to mend the fractured vertebrae together & the halo was left in place until a month post-op when I was transitioned to a brace that covered everything from the waist up on my back, chest & neck, but at least I could escape from it at night & to shower. A week after the surgery I was admitted to a rehab, center to begin 3 months of physical therapy & every other kind of therapy known to man.

      I really owe so much to 3 nurses who were snart enough to know that when I seemed angry at tunes, I was really just scared & feeling very out of control of my body & life. They used lots of sarcasm & sick humor to help me relax. Without those 3 people being in my life, I don't think the outcome would have been very good because I would have done something stupid like checking myself out AMA and fooling myself into believing I could go home & survive without medical intervention. As far as I'm concerned, they can never pay good nurses enough for what they do for patients each & every shift.

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  31. A man in my city brings his llamas to the hospice and to nursing homes. Comfort on four legs. For the patients and their families. He also takes the llamas to funerals. I do love that man. And his llamas.

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    1. Don't they spit?
      Dying AND being spat on?

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    2. They have been incredibly gentle. Training?

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  32. Lovely story, every ward should have a resident dog.

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    1. There's a joke in there somewhere

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  33. This is why I adore therapy animals. What a lovely story. Thank you for sharing. :)

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    1. He was a special dog......I still miss him dreadfully

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  34. I also love the programs where kids read to shelter and therapy animals.
    https://www.thedodo.com/animal-shelter-encourages-kids-425670655.html
    http://library.arlingtonva.us/events/kids-events/paws-to-read/

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  35. My SIL is in icu, stage 4 colon cancer and a multitude of other things caused by the chemo. She is a horsewoman and loves her horse like he is her child. The staff suggested to her daughter that she bring the horse to the hospital. They bundled her up and took her down to one of the ambulance bays, with all her machines and tubes. The pictures would take your breath away (made me cry). The horse is nuzzling her, kissing her and snuggling with her. It was priceless. Since this visit (last week) she has made tremendous progress and they are talking about moving her to rehab. The power and love of animals is amazing.

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    1. Janice
      One of my patients too...had her horse visit her in hospital

      A logistical nightmare but bloody moving to watch

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  36. I work in a children's hospital and we have regular pet therapy. Dogs and cats and even the occasional bird. The kids love it, the parents love it and the staff love it.

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  37. "Oh God," I said, then melted into giggles. Well done.

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    1. Well, now that I've recovered a bit, and read some of the other comments, I remember when my dad was intubated & sedated in ICU, I had to coach my mom to touch the poor man. First she kind of tapped his hand with her fingertips until I forced her to actually hold it. Married almost 40 years and uncomfortable holding her husband's hand. You'd think she was English or something.

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    2. It happens a great deal especially when arterial lines and the like cover a patient..people are frightened to disrupt anything

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  38. When I took my dogs to visit the nursing home, I asked permission of the administrator first. Then when some nasty employees said, Do you have permission to bring that dog in here?, I happily answered, YES. My dogs were much too big to get in bed with the patients, but visits from them were a big hit. Dogs are geniuses when it comes to helping people feel better.

    Love,
    Janie

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  39. I've been a nurse for 30 yrs plus and wish that health and safety rubbish didn't get in the way now of wonderful things like this x

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  40. Would just loved to have seen that one on a risk report 😄

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