Jaimie and Jimmy,
I have followed you since the day of Jimmy's accident, as my son sustained a C-4/5 complete SCI and spent five months at Shepherd in 2005-2006. We live in Spartanburg, so your accident hit close to home. You are amazing.
The Pulmonologist at Shepherd, who is still on staff, told us that because of Phillip's compromised diaphragm, he would never be able to completely wean from the vent. It took two tries, but Phillip was determined to prove him wrong. He worked hard, spent that dreaded night in ICU totally vent free, and he has never looked back. (At that time, the pacer surgery was just beginning to be done. I am almost sure I remember a guy down the hall having the first procedure at Shepherd shortly before we left).
When we left Shepherd, Phillip still had a trach, and he kept it for several months. We suctioned A LOT while at Shepherd, and less when we came home. Still, the thought of not having that open airway if suctioning was needed was very scary. As things progressed and Phillip became more healthy, our otolaryngologist in Augusta felt the time was right to remove the trach. It took a big leap of faith to say yes. The secretions simply became a non-issue. Phillip takes two Mucinex a day and has since leaving Shepherd. Occasionally he'll get something caught in his airway but coughing him with him helping as much as he can, and we have never had a problem.
Keep the great attitude, and good luck to you both as you begin this new quest. I am betting on you.