Ventilator-Assisted Living©

Fall 1993, Vol. 7, No. 2

ISSN 1066-534X

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Read selected articles from this issue ...

Air Scuba ... or I Can't Walk but I Can Fly
Randy Haims, California

Ventilator Reimbursement Issues
Judith R. Fischer, California

Advice for the New Ventilator User
Tedde Scharf, Arizona

Nasal Mask Adjustment Tips

Homemade Suction Machine


Obstacles to Discharge for Ventilator-Assisted Children
Pamela K. DeWitt, RN, MN, Mary T. Jansen, LVN,
Sally L. Davidson Ward, MD, and Thomas G. Keens, MD

Issues and Challenges of a Technology-Dependent Child
Stephanie M. Ellenberger, RN, and Tony Hilton, RN

CCHS Networking: How It Began
Mary Vanderlaan

What Is CCHS?
Mary Vanderlaan

Pamela Wolfe
Judith R. Fischer, California

The Perfect Portable Ventilator
Jerry Daniel, Washington

Air Scuba . or I Can't Walk But I Can Fly

Randy Haims, California

Editor's Note: Readers of IVUN News first met Randy, a C2 quad and ventilator user (trach positive pressure), in the Fall 1992 issue.

Vent users, I'm breaking the mold! Several months ago I was talking to Steve Kaliszewski, a friend who is a C7 quad and also a wheelchair sports specialist at Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego, and he told me he had just had an experience of a lifetime. "I went skydiving," he said. He went on to explain how it was done, and as he did light bulbs started flashing in my head. A quad sky diving is an accomplishment, but a quad on a vent sky diving is astounding, bordering on stupidity, but well-calculated stupidity.

After talking with Steve, I started brainstorming to figure out how I could jump. I thought I could take a small scuba tank and diving regulator and use that to help me frogbreathe, but after almost a month of making different adjustments on the regulator, I was very disheartened. I could not breathe with it, but I was not ready to give up yet. I put the equipment aside and waited for another good idea to come along.

A month later, another light bulb went off, and I knew I had the solution. I took the mouthpiece off of the regulator, added a piece of flex hose, and connected it directly to my trach. Now I just needed to go back to the dive shop, have them set the regulator on a constant air flow, and I would have more than enough air until I reached the ground. I felt I had brought the risk factor down to a minimum.

Ready to go, I called Jim Wallace of Wally World, an expert sky diver with almost 11,000 jumps to his credit, including numerous tandem jumps. I told him to set a date. When the big day came, I suited up, velcro-strapped and duct-taped the air cylinder to my stomach and the regulator near my shoulder, strapped my ankles and knees together, and strapped my arms across my chest. To get into the airplane, I was turned slightly sideways so Jim could attach the hooks from his harness to mine. Then five of us, plus the ventilator, loaded ourselves into the four-person Cessna. We were just ready to take off when the internal battery on my vent died, but we quickly exchanged it with my wheelchair vent, and sailed off into the wide blue yonder.

It took us a half an hour to reach 12,500 feet, our jump altitude, and then things started moving very quickly. I was transferred to my air scuba tank, Jim and I sat upright, the door opened with a chilling rush of air and an unbelievable sight of the ground below (we were over Murrieta Hot Springs). The camera man stepped out, barely clinging to the plane, then Jim and I stepped out, and we were falling at a speed of 120 mph. We freefell for almost a minute, and then Jim pulled the ripcord. My legs jackknifed almost to my face, and my head was thrown around a bit, but then things settled down and we were able to converse until we landed. As we approached the landing site, we were blown off course about 50 feet, so the people who were supposed to catch my legs were not there. We still managed a perfect landing on our feet. The jump had lasted five to six minutes, and after we landed - to the cheers of my nursing staff who had come to watch - I still had 13 minutes of reserve air in the scuba tank.

A message to quads and quads on vents: don't let society, family, doctors, or anybody set limits on your life. Life is short enough; be adventurous, yet careful, and, above all, be limitless.

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