At 4 years old, I was a typical little girl doing what little girls love doing — having play dates, dancing around, dressing up in big girl outfits and enjoying the security of my loving family. Then I sustained a C3-4 spinal cord injury in an automobile accident and was unable to breathe without ventilator support.
When I was old enough to go to school, the noisy, cumbersome ventilator made it difficult for me to concentrate, which affected my grades, and I was always tired. I also had multiple bouts of pneumonia and, at age 11, one of these pneumonia incidences landed me in the emergency room. That’s when the on-call pulmonologist asked my family why I wasn’t on a diaphragm pacemaker. We looked at her like she had 100 heads because we, like so many people, had no idea what that was.
When my parents looked into this device and the benefits it could provide, they insisted it would change my life. But I’d already had plenty of surgeries after the car accident and was hesitant to have another one. I finally agreed to have the procedure, and they were right — it has changed my life immensely.
How Diaphragm Pacemakers Work
To understand how the diaphragm pacemaker works, you must know the role of the phrenic ner