Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Maggie’s room is not designed to be a bedroom. It was the breakfast room of this house originally. It is on the main level of the house and has been reconfigured to meet her needs as best we can (there’s still no closet). Her room opens right on to the deck, which we added along with the outdoor lift/elevator. We also reconfigured the bathroom to add the shower. It is getting more and more difficult to get Maggie into the shower these days (more bed bath than showers lately). That shower comes in quite handy, though. We use it to dry various tubes we need for Maggie’s care. The shower resembles a pasta rack, with tubes hanging everywhere. 

There are hundreds of tubes in Maggie’s room all the time. We have oxygen, nebulizer, humidification, and suction tubing. We have three types of feeding tubes, catheters of various types and or course the trach tubes themselves. There are also the things attached to the tubes on both ends, the canisters or the various tips.  They are all essential to Maggie because they provide a means to give her what she needs (food and meds) and take away what she does not.   

 Every single tube as well as the machines to which they are attached are breeding grounds for bacteria. Some of the tubes are so bacteria filled they simply have to be thrown away every day or after a single use.  Most, however are re-used for a month or more. That means they have to be cleaned very well ever day or Maggie will get very sick.  If you look in Maggie’s bathroom you will see some tubes soaking and other hanging to dry form the showerhead and any other handy spot.   

Getting the tubes really clean and bacteria free takes more than soap and water. Soap and hot water is just step one.  After the tubes are washed, many of them, especially anything used for respiratory issues, have to be soaked in a vinegar solution.  Vinegar is a natural bacteria fighter.  We use  one part vinegar to three parts water and we change the solution frequently. That means we go through a LOT of vinegar.

Every couple of weeks I head to a nearby store that sells large quantities. Not a warehouse store per se because that place seems to sell only gourmet vinegar. There’s nothing gourmet about what we are doing and no need for the extra ingredients (or extra price). Just the plain white vinegar for me, thanks. I buy two or three gallons at a time.   I don’t really need anything else at this store so it’s generally the only thing in my basket.  Often I get strange looks from people as I put my three gallons of vinegar on the conveyor belt. Once in a while someone asks why I’m buying so much vinegar and I tell them, but generally I just get quizzical looks.  The looks are not unkind or inappropriate,  just quizzical

The other day I was loading gallons of vinegar into my cart when I saw that look from another shopper. Our eyes met briefly and I think she was just about to ask. She was placing a large package of spaghetti into her cart. Unbeknownst to her, the package was opened and as she was looking at me dried spaghetti noodles were going all over the floor. Now my eyebrows went up. She looked down at the now empty package in her hand and the mess on the floor and gave the greatest me the greatest look ever. It was resigned, exasperated and amused all at the same time. I very dryly said, “I wouldn’t buy that one if I were you.”  We both laughed. I moved my basket heavy from all vinegar and the spaghetti noodles crunched under the cart. We both started laughing at the sound.

I proceeded to the checkout still laughing and mentioned to the checker that there was a problem in the spaghetti aisle. He nodded and said, what’s with all the vinegar?


  1. I can just see it. Thanks for the sorely needed chuckle!

    Also wondering when you do all that tube cleaning...!!?

  2. I'm with Mary -- when do you do it all? And I also find it interesting that vinegar gets such important things clean -- amazing how we've grown so far away from using simple remedies for cleaning --

  3. Every nurse washes the tubes from her shift. Including me, if I don't have a nurse. We never get behind on those things because we would be overwhelmed. I can barely keep up with the vinegar and soap.


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