Third in a series
The term free air may conjure filling stations of old, where you could pull up to the compressor and inflate your tires. Free air in a chest means that it’s not in the lungs where it belongs, keeping us alive; it’s outside the lung lobes but trapped within the chest cavity. Princess wouldn’t be able to breathe against that potential complication. But by inflating her lungs as I closed her ribs, followed by chest tube suction, we would eliminate this problem. As I set down my instruments I asked Amos to switch off the oxygen. That’s when our sleeping patient immediately began to struggle, inhaling only small amounts of air. The color of her gums was quickly turning a pale purple. We had no pulse oximeters in the ‘80s. Visual monitoring told the tale. Princess’s blood oxygen was dropping like a stone.
We had to remove the trapped free air – right now. I heard a moan and glanced at my normally steadfast assistant and saw a look of horror. “No need for panic, Amos” I said in my most soothing tone. “This shouldn’t be difficult,” whereupon I hefted our 15# patient with both hands and popped the end of her chest tube into my mouth.
My first suck produced nothing so I rotated our poodle, as though she were a pig on a spit, and sucked again. I was immediately rewarded by a mouthful of air – most gratifying. I turned Princess again and sucked – a bit more air. We were on a roll. I tipped her horizontally, vertically, upside down, and at every angle possible. As the free air moved above the horizontal, the tip of the chest tube tapped into a different pocket. When my repeated sucking finally gave up nothing I set our patient back on the table and – she breathed just like a normal dog. As I gazed admiringly at the natural beauty of her lovely pink gums, I breathed the words, “Sorry for the drama, girl.” Then I looked at Amos and saw a young man who was nearly comatose himself. I barked, “Amos! She’s fine!” My faithful nurse recovered his composure quickly.
Next week: A message from the other side?
For help with behavior problems, you can sign-up for a Zoom Group Conference on my website, drjeffnichol.com.
Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in-person and in groups by Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week he shares a blog and a video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Post pet behavioral or physical questions on facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.