On January 15th I had a stent removal surgery. Flashback to October 9th, 2020, I was given a laryngotracheal reconstruction surgery where they took part of my rib to build two grafts in order to support the front and back of my throat. They then inserted an airway stent to hold it open and keep everything in place for healing. This stent was then removed three months later (last Friday), in hopes that my airway would stay open.
About the surgery:
In preparation for surgery, a COVID-19 test was done two days prior to surgery. The results were posted online that evening (negative). The night before surgery, at 12am, I had to go NBM/NPO, which means “nothing by mouth” (no eating or drinking). The surgery was originally planned for 8am, but instead got moved to 3:30pm. For every surgery, we must arrive at the hospital two hours early, therefore we left our hotel around 1:15. Unfortunately because of COVID restrictions, only one parent was able to accompany me. When we got there, we headed up to the second floor and got checked in with pre-op. Then, we do the usual pre-surgery routine, vitals, discussions with the doctors and anesthesiologists, went through paperwork, and then I followed the nurse to surgery room M. They did a bronchoscopy, microlaryngoscopy as well as the stent removal. They also downsized my trach from a Shiley 5.0 PDL to a 4.0 PED uncuffed. Overall the surgery lasted almost two hours.
After the surgery:
I usually wake up in post-op after surgeries, but this time it took me a while to wake up from the anesthetics, so I woke up (very sleepily) in my usual 5A observation room. I have a small stitched incision on the right side of my trach, along with four stitch marks from the interior breathing tube that was placed for the duration of the surgery. Since the stent was removed, this meant my airway was now open! We then placed a small cap on my trach to block any airflow from the tube and instead direct it to my nose and mouth. This is called “capping” or “corking”. This is the first time in over a year that I’ve been able to breathe normally! This also meant, after three months of being completely mute, I finally have my quiet raspy voice back.
Being able to breathe normally is a HUGE step in the right direction, but will also take time to get used too. For starters, we have to keep a good eye on my oxygen levels because for the first few hours I was capped, my oxygen levels were dropping to 80-85 (whereas it should normally be 97-100). It takes a lot more effort to breathe from my nose, then it is from my trach, therefore I have to remember to take large deep breaths, also due to the trach tube still taking up part of my airway. Another difficulty I have is swallowing (especially liquids). My throat is now completely open, which means I choke on practically everything I eat or drink. I am not able to drink thin liquids like water or juice, but have been trying to slowly swallow thicker substances such as smoothies and jello.
I am currently still on the two types of pills; Clindamycin and Amoxicillin/Clavulanic acid. It is more difficult to swallow them now that I cannot drink any liquids, but somehow I am still getting them down three times a day. I have also been put on a Ciprodex nebulizer twice a day (morning and night). The Ciprodex is used to control any swelling or scarring that may occur. During the night, because the cap is very new, I take it off to sleep and use the Airvo (humidifier).
Altogether, we are hoping that my airway stays open. That is the main goal. The last time I was capped, it lasted about 3 weeks before it started to close again, so we are hoping for the best! I will go back to SickKids next week for a checkup and possible surgery.
Thank you for reading! I will continue to keep you updated on my progress & don’t forget to keep smiling 🙂 -Zoe xo